Privy Council fails to abolish death penalty in Trinidad and Barbados

The hopes of hundreds of death row prisoners in Trinidad and Barbados have been dashed after the Privy Council ruled the death penalty should not be abolished on the two islands.

The massively unpopular judgment, imposed by a panel of white judges, is expected to spur efforts by the Caribbean to establish its own Court of Final Appeal that will replace the Privy Council in London.

The case was tightly fought with five judges ruling against abolition and four in favour. It is the first time in its history that the Privy Council has fielded nine judges. The most senior Law Lord, Lord Justice Bingham, voted against retaining the death penalty.

The failed appeal was made on behalf of Charles Matthews, from Trinidad, and Lennox Boyce and Jeffrey Joseph from Barbados, all represented by Simons Muirhead and Burton.

Keir Starmer QC and Edward Fitzgerald QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, their counsel, said they now intend taking the prisoners’ case to the inter-American court on appeal.