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Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi addresses members of the media at yesterday’s press conference

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has welcomed a decision of a High Court Judge to dismiss a constitutional legal challenge over murder being a non-bailable offence.

In a press release yesterday, Al-Rawi noted that Justice Joan Charles, in her judgment delivered on Tuesday, had essentially upheld his office’s position on the lawsuit brought by former murder accused Akili Charles.

“The case for the Attorney General was that from time immemorial Judges did not grant bail to a person who was charged for murder. Furthermore, it was the State’s case that Parliament has the right to change the law in respect of the granting of bail,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi did make note of the fact that despite her decision on the case, Charles still advocated for Parliament to consider a review on legislation related to murder to consider introducing different degrees based on the widely varying circumstances by which a person may take the life of another.

“The Government remains committed to advancing legislative reform for the peace, order and good governance of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and will continue to vigorously defend the rule of law,” he said.

He noted his office would continue with its aggressive legislative and operational agenda, which will be announced in the coming weeks and include public consultations.

In the lawsuit, Akili Charles’ lawyers were contending that this country’s colonial age legislation on the issue should be struck down as was done in recent cases over this country’s buggery and sedition laws.

They argued that the bail for murder should not be automatic but should be decided by judicial officers, as the blanket denial of bail, breached their judicial discretion under the doctrine of the separation of powers.

Their position was largely supported by the Law Association, which was added to the case as an interested party.

Responding to the lawsuit, attorneys for the State claimed that the provision was saved from review as it was ratified in the Bail Act 1994.

Justice Charles eventually agreed with the State.

“In my view, it is a function of the legislative arm of Government, taking into account current societal norms and any other social factors it deems relevant, to decide whether the law relating to bail for murder ought to be repealed, amended or replaced as has happened in other Caribbean jurisdictions,” Justice Charles said.

“Having determined that the impugned legislation is existing law, I consider that it would amount to judicial overreach to strike down, alter or replace the said legislation,” she added.

However, the judge still suggested that parliamentary consideration of varying degrees of murder would be worthwhile.

“While I agree that it may be a valuable exercise to consider a review of the legislation governing murder, to take account of the widely varying circumstances by which a person may take the life of another, this is a task which falls within the domain of the legislative arm of government,” she said.

Akili Charles was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Ganesh Saroop and Jayanti Lutchmedial while the association was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Kiel Tacklalsingh and Kavita Roop-Boodoo. Fyard Hosein, SC, Diane Katwaroo and Tenille Ramkissoon represented the State.