Understanding the Law
November 17, 2006

Grounds for appeal

Nothing is wrong with a robust closing speech but…..

High Court trials deals with evidence put forth by witnesses (including the defendant if he gives evidence) while the Court of appeal deals with the errors which occur in the trial. The trial judge may deal with certain errors but if he does not they may be significant to give grounds for appeal and these may be significant enough to warrant a retrial or an allowance of the appeal, that is, the quashing of the conviction and or sentence.

The defence could put forth as many grounds for appeal as it may see fit. In the Patrick Lovelace case there were as many as nine grounds for appeal, two of which succeeded. The defence may withdraw the grounds even before they are considered by the judges. The objects of these grounds are to have the judges declare that the decision of the High court is unsafe or there was a miscarriage of justice.{{more}}

One of the grounds that came up for substantive discussion was the closing address of the prosecutor. As you know both the prosecutor and the defence lawyers after examination and cross examination of the witnesses would want to convince the jury of the soundness of the facts put forward. This is the last chance for them to do so and they often use their skills in court craft to convince the jury of the guilt (prosecutor) and innocence (defence) of the accused.

Cases on closing Address

When the appeal judges discuss the grounds put forward by the defence they would look at the precedents on the issue. In the discussion on the closing address of the prosecutor the court of Appeal judges looked at the cases of Mohamed v the State (1999) and Mantoor Ramdhanie v the State (2005). In the cases in point the judges decided that the prosecutor should not in their closing address “venture into the province of impropriety or unfairness by asserting his or her own personal belief on any aspect of the evidence and thereupon urge the jury to believe that evidence also. Further that a prosecutor should not use language that is vindictive or inflammatory against an accused and should not introduce inadmissible or irrelevant material that could color the consideration of the evidence by the jury.” Reference was also made to the case of Alexander Benedetto v the Queen (2003) where the Privy Council decided that a prosecutor could speak to the jury in a” language and style” that it could understand. The judges further asserted that there is nothing to prevent a prosecutor from delivering a robust closing speech. However, in the recent case of Lovelace v the Queen the appeal judges thought that there was a breach of the principles in the above cases.

Another ground for Appeal

In the case of Rupert Yearwood v the Queen, (St. Vincent, 2002) Counsel for the appellant raised the ground that the judge neglected to properly direct the jury on aspect of provocation that related to the burden of proof. On the issue of provocation it is the duty of the judge to tell the jury that it is the duty of the Crown to negative provocation beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeal felt that the judge had err in that regard, but notwithstanding the defec they decided that there was no miscarriage of justice.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com