Micobie man, 58, freed after nine years on remand for murder
High Court Judge Sandil Kissoon, on Friday, ordered the immediate release of 58-year-old Raymond Jones who has been languishing on remand for the last nine years for murder.
Jones of Micobie Village in Potaro, Region Eight, was freed after Justice Kissoon found that Jones’ constitutional rights to a free trial within a reasonable time by an impartial tribunal was breached by the State.
The Judge ruled in favor of the constitutional challenge filed by Jones’ attorney, Teriq Mohammed, for the pre-trial detention right of the accused.
Justice Kissoon in striking out the longstanding murder indictment said that Jones had been an inmate on remand for the capital offence since December 28, 2012 to present for a period of nine years, six months and 18 days.
This, he said, is equivalent to 15 prison years.
“To no one, will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice”, the Judge said as he quoted from Clause 40 of the charter of the Magna Carter.
He said that a “grave tragedy” and “injustice” occurred against Jones.
Jones was accused of fatally shooting Gary Joseph with an ‘arrow and bow’ on December 26, 2012, at Micobie Village. He was later charged and committed to stand trial in 2014 following a preliminary inquiry (PI) before a Magistrate.
One year later, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack received the depositions for Jones’ case.
However, the DPP remitted the matter back to the Magistrate to “correct what has been described as several material irregularities and omissions on the part of that officer.”
He said that Jones’s case was brought to his attention by the Superintendent of Prisons, initially on jail delivery between 2020 and 2021.
Justice Kissoon stated that after he perused the directives, it raised his doubts about the validity of Jones’ committal by the Magistrate.
Nevertheless, he said that is a non-issue in the context of this current proceeding before him
Thinking it was his only way to “end his agony” and get out of prison, Jones made a request to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter in 2021.
According to the Judge, he gave directions that Jones’ case be called in the Essequibo Assizes for the plea to be taken but this was not done.
Jones’ case went back on the list but as luck would have it, the case was called in the jail delivery before Justice Kissoon again.
“I’m unable to contemplate how did we in the criminal justice system arrive at this juncture, where in 2022 a citizen can serve the equivalent of a few months short of a 15-year prison sentence on remand and this is somehow acceptable in the context of the system that prevails,” Kissoon said.
In quoting from the famous landmark “prisons rights” case, Kissoon quoted Indian Supreme Court Justice Bhagwati, who, in his ruling said, “what faith can these lost souls have in the judicial system, which denies them a fair trial for so many years, and keeps them behind bars, not because they are guilty. But because the courts have no time to try them.”
The High Court Judge further stated that Jones was deprived of an early opportunity to have his name cleared and was confronted with the stigma, anxiety and stress that accompanies exposure to criminal proceedings by deliberately elevating to the status of a constitutional.
“I believe it is high time for judges of the land to take a firmer stand as possible in a matter of this sort where the principle is of infinitely more importance than the case,” he said.
Justice Kissoon while quashing Jones’ indictment ordered that the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, to provide assistance to the now freed man to ensure his safe passage back to his village.