Eight former death row inmates immediately released

Eight former death row inmates in Trinidad and Tobago have been released after 22 years’ imprisonment. In 2001 in the case of State v Maharaj, 10 co-defendants were convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  In 2006 the Privy Council quashed their death sentences and substituted life sentences, where the only means of release was at the President’s discretion. In 2017, the inmate’s appeals were reheard by the Court of Appeal, after fresh evidence emerged showing that the sole witness against them had lied at their trial. The witness failed to attend the hearing and could not be traced. The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals and the Privy Council upheld the decision for the 9 out of 10 inmates that had appealed. An appeal against the life sentence previously imposed by the Privy Council was also pursued. In 2023 the Privy Council was persuaded to directly remit their cases to the criminal division of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago for an expedited resentencing hearing. Last Friday, 8 inmates received fixed term sentences that entitled them to immediate release. (A nineth inmate remains incarcerated for an unrelated offence.)

Edward Fitzgerald KC and Amanda Clift-Matthews represented the 9 inmates before the Privy Council, instructed by The Death Penalty Project at Simons Muirhead Burton LLP