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Hunte and Khan (Appellants) v The State (Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago)
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1 User Commentary

Melanie Davidson (In-house lawyer) 28 September 2015

Case Digest: Hunte and Khan (Appellants) v The State (Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago) [2015] UKPC 33

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The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council handed down its judgment on 16 July 2015 inHunte and Khan (Appellants) v The State (Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago) [2015] UKPC 33 before Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed and Lord Toulson. Timothy Hunte and Shazad Khan were convicted of the murder of Ramkhelawan Ray Charran at his home and subsequently were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. Their appeals to the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago were dismissed.

Grounds of Appeal: 

a) It would now be unconstitutional for the sentences of death to be carried out (applying the principles established by the Board in Pratt and Morgan v Attorney General of Jamaica [1994] 2 AC 1).

 b) The Board being seized of their appeals against conviction has jurisdiction to order commutation of the sentences in accordance with its decision in Ramdeen v The State of Trinidad and Tobago [2014] UKPC 7; [2015] AC 562.

In a judgment given by Lord Toulson; Lord Neuberger, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption and Lord Reed all agreed with the view of Lord Toulson while Lady Hale dissented on the issue of sentence. The reasons for their dismissal of the appeal against the sentences, was that the appellants, Timothy Hunte and Shazad Khan, did not raise the argument of the constitutionality of their sentence at the local Court of Appeal and therefore could not be raised as a fresh issue at the Privy Council.

On the second issue Lord Toulson made reference to Ramdeen and Matthew v State of Trinidad and Tobago [2005] 1 AC 433 which were cases where the Board did not have jurisdiction to order commutation of the sentence. Lord Toulson humbly acknowledged that these cases are wrong in law and the Board must now depart from those judgments. The Board cannot exercise an original jurisdiction which is does not have, as it would do in allowing these appeals.

Lady Hale in her dissention stated that Ramdeen was rightly decided. Prolonging the “death row” experience of someone entitled to commutation of the sentence by holding that the Board’s only power to order commutation is on appeal from a constitutional motion and not on an appeal from the criminal court, is “morally unacceptable”(para 106).

The Appeal was dismissed.


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