CCJ denies Ex-GDF Coast Guards special leave to appeal murder sentence
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has dismissed an application for leave to appeal, filed by two former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guards, who were convicted of the 2009 murder of Bartica gold miner, Dwieve Kant Ramdass.
The applicants, Sherwyn Harte, Deon Greenidge, and Devon Godron were found guilty by a jury of murdering Ramdass on August 20, 2009.
They were initially sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Franklyn Holder at the Demerara High Court.
In 2010, the Criminal Law (Offences) Act (CLOA) was amended in Guyana, providing an alternative to the mandatory death sentence.
Last year, the Court of Appeal commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment, considering the time the appellants had spent in pre-trial custody.
Under the new sentence, Harte, as a senior officer, will be eligible for parole after 25 years, while Gordon and Greenidge will be eligible after 18 years.
Dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal’s ruling, only Harte and Greenidge decided to seek leave to appeal to the CCJ. Gordon did not pursue an appeal.
Greenidge sought permission to appeal his conviction, while both Harte and Greenidge sought permission to challenge the sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal and to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.
The CCJ, in its ruling, found that Greenidge’s application did not present any realistic possibility of a serious miscarriage of justice based on his conviction and the evidence provided in the caution statement.
Regarding the constitutionality of the death penalty, the court determined that the applicants faced no immediate threat of execution, making their arguments on this issue essentially academic.
Justice Adrian Saunders, the CCJ President, stated that the application did not demonstrate exceptional circumstances, leading to the dismissal of the appeal.
The men were represented by attorneys Nigel Hughes and Douglas Mendes, SC, who were retained by ‘The Death Penalty Project’ – a London-based NGO which has, for over three decades, been providing free legal representation to those facing the death penalty.
According to reports, Ramdass was on his way to Bartica with a box containing $17 million to conduct business for his employer when he was taken off a boat in which he was already seated at Parika by the three then-GDF coast guards.
The soldiers then placed Ramdass in their vessel and left heading into the vicinity of Bartica.
The young gold dealer was subsequently found dead. The three soldiers reportedly split the money after they killed Ramdass.