Murder accused wants $35m

Observer staff reporter

Monday, April 23, 2018

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ACCUSED murderer Mervin Cameron, the first prisoner to successfully sue the State for keeping him too long in custody without being tried, is asking for $35 million in damages following his landmark victory in the Constitutional Court last month.

The court ruled that Cameron's right to be tried within a reasonable time was violated under section 14 (3) and that he is to be awarded damages.

Cameron has been incarcerated for five years.

Hence, Cameron's attorney, Hugh Wildman, in his submission to the court on April 11, asked for an award of $35 million, arguing that, “It is a reasonable compensation for the court to make to Mr Cameron for the manifest breach of his right to a fair trial within a reasonable time under the constitution.”

According to Wildman, an appropriate award should reflect the extent of the aggravation that the claimant suffered at the hands at the State.

“The critical question for consideration is the proper approach this court should take in considering the quantum of damages that would adequately vindicate the breach of Mr Cameron's constitutional right and to deter the State from any further breach,” he also pointed out.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer yesterday, Wildman said the sum should actually be more, considering that his client has officially passed the five-year mark in custody.

“He is more than deserving of $35 million, and we have used a number of different cases, including cases from different jurisdictions, to arrive at the figure,” Wildman said.

One of the cases cited by the attorney in his submission was a ruling by Justice Jennifer Straw who, in April 2009, awarded a claimant $1,540,000 for false imprisonment for 30 days, noting that the court, in applying the same approach, could easily arrive at $25 million.

However, he said, a further $10 million would reflect the breach of his client's constitutional right, which was reflected in the parish court's failure to take the necessary step to ascertain the availability of the witnesses and the failure of the State to use all available means to ensure that the trial progressed in a reasonable time.

Cameron was jointly charged with Christopher Wilson for the alleged murder of 43-year-old deputy chief of security at Jamaica Postal Service Barrington Davis and Davis's female friend Syndia Patricia Barnswell.

The two were kidnapped from Davis's St John's Heights home in St Catherine in August 2012 and their bodies found with gunshot wounds in bushes in Inswood, also in that parish, less than a month later.

However, Cameron, who is yet to take up his $300,000 reduced bail offer, which he was awarded during the ruling in the Constitutional Court, remains in custody while Wilson is out on bail.

Wildman previously told the Observer that he was forced to bring the matter to the Constitutional Court after his client was denied bail and his preliminary hearing in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court was stalled because of an absence of witnesses.

“When the key witness ran away while being cross-examined by me, and the police witnesses and other witnesses stopped coming, the magistrate... refused to give him bail, and I took the matter to the Constitutional Court,” Wildman said.

The judges in the Constitutional Court, along with the reduced bail order, also ordered that unless there is earlier intervention by the director of public prosecutions, Cameron's preliminary hearing must be completed by May 30 and a decision be made as to whether the matter should proceed to trial, failing which Cameron must be released and the charge in the parish court stayed.

Further to that, the judges also ruled that if Cameron's case is committed for trial or placed before the Circuit Court on a voluntary bill of indictment, his trial must begin before the end of the Hilary Term in April, failing which trial shall be discontinued unless the delay is due to the defence.

In the meantime, the attorney general is to respond to Cameron's constitutional damages award by April 27.

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