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February 11, 2005


Has the judiciary in the Eastern Caribbean usurped the authority of the legislature?

This issue was raised here on January 28 by chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and former Attorney General, Parnel Campbell Q.C. at a special sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.{{more}}

Campbell was at the time showering praise on Acting Chief Justice Adrian Saunders when he departed briefly to address the issue of the death penalty, which is no longer mandatory consequent upon a murder conviction.

“I agree profoundly with the result of the decision in Hughes and Spence murder cases. But, I entertain great reservations as to whether the court had the authority, in light of the principles of the Separation of Powers, to have made that decision.” Campbell stated.

The Queen’s Counsel emphasized: “So, that, while I support the result, I still feel that the judiciary usurped the proper function of the legislature in changing a fundamental aspect of the law touching on matters of life and death, which should have been the proper province of the elected representatives of the people and their respective tenets.”

The CRC chairman posited that the fact that the Court of Appeal had suggested that the decision making should have been done by the jury – which was reversed by the Privy Council which ruled that the decision-making should be that of the judge- illustrated the legislative nature of the decision.

He said he applauded the reasoning, which led to a very salutary change in the administration of the death penalty.

Campbell further stated: “And, for what it is worth, I remain an unrepentant believer in capital punishment in the proper circumstances.”