By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – It has been reported that over the years, several international organisations have been calling on Guyana to abolish the penalty of death by hanging. Moreover, this edition of ‘The Court Journal’ will shed some light on Guyana’s existing death penalty for persons convicted of murder.
Firstly, it should be noted that the death penalty is not mandatory for those convicted of murder.
According to Section 100 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, “Everyone who commits murder shall be guilty of a felony and liable to death as a felon.” However, it should be noted that this does not mean that it is mandatory for such a sentence to be imposed.
It is well known that the constitutionality of Guyana’s death penalty has been under the radar for some years now. Earlier this year, Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, submitted to Judges of the Appeal Court that the issue over the constitutionality of the death penalty can only be fully remedied by Parliament. The AG was at the time addressing the Court in the case of three coastguards who are appealing the death penalty sentence they were given for the 2009 murder of gold miner, Dwieve Kant Ramdass.
Moreover, while Section 100 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act outlines the death penalty for a convicted murderer, Articles: 138 – protection of right to life, 141 – protection from inhuman treatment and 152 – saving of existing laws and disciplinary laws –– all outline how the death penalty must be reasonably and rationally imposed.
ARTICLE 138 (1)
According to Article 138(1), no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally, except in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the laws of Guyana of which he has been convicted.
According to Article 141(1), no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. While Article 141(2), states that nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this article to the extent that the law in question authorises the infliction of any punishment or the administration of any treatment that was lawful in Guyana immediately before the commencement of this Constitution.
ARTICLE 152 (1) (A)
According to 152 (1) (A), except in proceedings commenced before the expiration of a period of six months from the commencement of this Constitution, with respect to a law made under the Guyana Independence Order 1966 and the Constitution annexed thereto, nothing contained in or done under the authority of any written law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of any provision of Articles 138 to 149 (inclusive) to the extent that the law in question—is a law (in this article referred to as “an existing law”) that had effect as part of the law of Guyana immediately before the commencement of this Constitution and has continued to have effect as part of the law of Guyana at all times since that day.
Fifty-five-year-old Bibi Nazeela Habiboodean was handed a death sentence for paying to have her father killed. The hitman, Linden Lewis called ‘Bullets’ also received the same fate for the death of 76-year-old Habiboodean [only name] a businessman of Ruby, East Bank Essequibo.
The duo was sentenced by Justice Sandil Kissoon in the Demerara High Court.
During August 2021, they had denied the charge which stated that on February 15, 2008, they murdered Habiboodean. They were represented by attorneys-at-law Latchmie Rahamat and Roger Yearwood, while evidence was led by Senior State Counsel, Lisa Cave.
After deliberating, the jury returned with unanimous guilty verdicts against both Bibi and Lewis. Even after the verdicts were delivered, the duo still maintained their innocence. Justice Kissoon in handing down the sentence stated that it was made following due consideration of the circumstances of the crime along with the fact that Bibi was motivated by greed to get her father’s assets and hired Lewis to inflict injuries on him.
Habiboodean was the owner of a gas station at Ruby, East Bank Essequibo. He died at the Woodlands Hospital on February 15, 2008, one day after he was badly beaten at his home.
According to reports, in 2016 Bibi had turned herself in at the Leonora Police Station, West Coast Demerara, and had implicated other persons in the murder. The woman had confessed that, along with Lewis, they sat down in her father’s house with five individuals and plotted his death.
Police had previously arrested and charged Bibi and 38-year-old Terry Lewton of Vergenoegen, East Bank Essequibo, but the case was discharged because of insufficient evidence.
However, the lawmen got a real break in the case after Lewis and four others were detained for the murders of Mohamed Munir, 75, and his wife Bibi Jamila Munir, 69, who were burnt to death in their Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo home.
It was while he was in custody that someone tipped off investigators that Lewis had vital information about Habiboodeen’s death.
Police said that while being interrogated, Lewis admitted to killing Habiboodeen, while complaining that he had never received full payment for the job. According to what Lewis had told the police, it all began sometime in 2008 when Bibi complained that other relatives had received properties and other assets, while she had received nothing.
The woman had also stated that she wanted the old man’s fuel station, cash he had in a bank, and assets he had in Georgetown. She then contacted an uncle of Lewis and he hired Lewis to kill her father. He was promised $6M, a house and land.
In another matter, Aaron Hing of Kildonan Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), was sentenced to death for the 2015 murder of his god-brother, British teen, Dominic Bernard.
Hing was jointly charged with his friend, Stayman George, for the murder of the 18-year-old.
George pleaded guilty to the charge which stated that on October 14, 2015 at Kildonan Village, Corentyne, East Berbice, they murdered Bernard, while Hing went to trial and he was found guilty.
George was sentenced to life imprisonment by Justice Kissoon, he becomes eligible for parole after 35 years.
It was reported that George’s child mother, Krystol Thomas, her mother, Sinfine Henry called “Coreen”, and George’s friend, Jahmil Sinclair, were charged with accessory to murder.
It was reported too that Bernard had arrived in Guyana on October 14, 2015, for a three-week vacation with his god-brother Hing. He was scheduled to fly back to England on November 5, 2015 but failed to do so.
On January 8, 2016, a badly decomposed body, suspected to be that of Bernard, was found in a shallow grave at Nurney, Corentyne, Berbice by CID ranks from Georgetown and Berbice. They were acting on an anonymous phone call.
A post mortem examination revealed that he had sustained a fractured skull, as well as a broken neck. DNA test results showed that the samples taken from the badly decomposed body matched the DNA of Bernard’s father.
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