Allen & Overy (A&O) has scored a rare success before the Privy Council on behalf of a Jamaican death row prisoner.
The firm’s head of death row work, associate Rainer Evers, and trainees Camilla Mackenzie and Laura Baird acted pro bono for Shabadine Peart, who was sentenced to death in 2000 for murder.
Furnival Chambers’ Stephen Leslie QC, Stephen Hellmann and Iain Cassie were instructed, also giving their services pro bono. The team worked for two years on the case.
In February, a Privy Council committee of Lords Rodger, Steyn, Carswell, Mance and Sir Swinton Thomas overturned Peart’s conviction, remitting his case to the Jamaican Court of Appeal.
A&O head of pro bono Joanna Grant said: “To get a conviction quashed is pretty uncommon. It’s getting harder and harder to get cases to appeal.”
Peart was arrested and charged with the murder of Kingston security guard Delroy Parchment in 1999. Jamaican judges’ rules state that suspects in a crime should only be questioned after being charged in exceptional circumstances. Peart was convicted partly on the evidence gained from an interview held after he was charged with murder, which the Privy Council held to be unconstitutional.
“[Their Lordships] cannot be satisfied that the jury would inevitably have reached the same conclusion if the evidence of the questions and answers had not been given,” the judgment reads.
The Privy Council also took into account Peart’s age – just 18 – at the time of his arrest, and the fact that he had not had the services of a lawyer before the interview took place.
Mackenzie says that working on the case was rewarding and useful. “It was very, very different to anything else I’ve done in the firm and it was great to work on a criminal case,” she said.
Grant agreed that the skills young lawyers pick up on cases such as the Peart appeal are valuable. “I think many of the skills are transferable,” she said. “These are also cases where junior associates and trainees do get quite a lot of responsibility.”
She added that A&O felt it could offer a lot to those finding themselves in Peart’s position.
“I think it’s incumbent on big firms to bring their expertise to bear in such situations,” said Grant.
A&O is also currently acting pro bono for seven other Jamaican death row prisoners and four death row prisoners in Trinidad.