A&O lawyer posthumously wins death row case

A former Allen & Overy (A&O) lawyer has had a prisoner’s death sentence repealed two years after the lawyer’s death.

Former A&O litigation associate Richard Hamilton first represented Wilberforce Bernard, a prisoner on death row in Trinidad, in 1998 in an appeal against his conviction for murder. Hamilton worked on a pro bono basis.

After an initial appeal failed, Hamilton travelled to Trinidad to gather further evidence, which subsequently led to the president of Trinidad referring Bernard’s case back to the Court of Appeal of Trinidad in 2004.

Hamilton remained involved in the case after leaving A&O in 2004 to serve in the army and train as a doctor, but was tragically killed in a canoeing accident in 2005.

The UK Privy Council ruled that Bernard’s conviction was unsafe because of the inexperience of his counsel at the trial and the failure of the trial judge to give his counsel sufficient opportunity to prepare his case properly.

James Freeman, a member of the A&O litigation team, said: “This case was highly significant both professionally and personally. It not only corrected a miscarriage of justice and continued the work being done on death row cases in the Caribbean, but also pays testament to Richard’s commitment.”

A&O associates James Freeman and Andrew Waters, overseen by partner Mark Levy, also worked on the case.

Counsel for Bernard were James Dingemans QC and Navjot Atwal of 3 Hare Court, both of whom also worked pro bono.

A&O has represented other Caribbean death row cases on a pro bono basis. In April 2006 the firm successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica against the conviction of Garnett Edwards for capital murder. This was preceded in February 2006 by a victory in an appeal on behalf of Jamaican death row prisoner Shabbadean Peart.