DPP stands by retrial of Bisram; lawyer argues law which empowers her is unconstitutional

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By Kurt Campbell

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Guyana’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali Hack on Thursday defended her instruction to have murder accused Marcus Bisram tried again for the capital offence despite a Magistrate finding on two occasions that the evidence was not sufficient to commit him to stand trial at the High Court.

But even as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) entertained oral presentations in an appeal filed by Bisram, the Court was asked to altogether declare as unconstitutional Section 72 of Guyana’s Criminal Law Offences Act.

That section empowers the DPP to instruct and direct a Magistrate to recommit a person to a retrial. The DPP told the CCJ that this is her constitutional function even if the Magistrate finds that there has been insufficient evidence as was determined twice in the Marcus Bisram case.

The argument by Bisram and his attorney is that the DPP is part of the Executive arm of government and based on the separation of powers, she cannot instruct the Judiciary.

Asked by CCJ President Justice Saunders whether she felt it was right for the DPP, not being part of the judiciary to direct a court and a Magistrate, the DPP said it existed for several years and she did not find that it amounted to interference in the independence of the judiciary.

Bisram was charged with murder on the basis that he counselled and procured the death of Faiyaz Narinedatt.

High Court Judge Simone Morris-Ramlall had quashed the decision of the DPP and of the Magistrate to have Bisram committed, but the Court of Appeal later set aside that decision.

Through his attorney Dharshan Ramdhani, QC, Bisram told the CCJ that the law which empowers the DPP to instruct a Magistrate to recommit a person was in contradiction with Article 122 of the Constitution, a point the DPP disagrees with.

He also argued that Justice Morris-Ramlall got it right when she ruled but the overturning of that decision by the Court of Appeal was an error in law.

Ramdhani also claimed that the DPP had instructed the retrial without seeing for herself a witness’ sworn out-of-court testimony.

The DPP again disagreed although the Court of Appeal has already faulted her on this point and said she did go over the depositions with a Counsel from her Chambers whom she had delegated to carry the functions of the DPP.

The case was adjourned on Thursday with the apex court asking for more submissions to be made.

It was the CCJ in June this year that ordered the release of Bisram from prison until the hearing and determination of his appeal. Bisram, who was initially extradited from the United States of American to face the murder charge, is unable to leave Guyana and so he participated in the hearing on Thursday virtually.

During a preliminary inquiry in 2020, Magistrate Singh had initially freed Bisram after she found that the evidence given by the star witness for the prosecution was “unreliable” under cross-examination.  However, the DPP ordered the magistrate to commit Bisram to the High Court to stand trial for the indictment.

Bisram was accused of orchestrating the murder of Narinedatt, a 27-year-old father of two, who was killed on November 01, 2016. Narinedatt’s body was found around 03:30 hours on November 01, 2016, on the Number 70 Public Road, Corentyne, Berbice. His death was initially reported to be the result of a hit-and-run accident.

It was later reported that Bisram allegedly made sexual advances towards Narinedatt, who objected.

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