Everyone must be afforded due process rights, especially those facing the ultimate penalty: execution. The DPP has made extraordinary progress in protecting this most fundamental right in a range of jurisdiction.

Privy Council quashes murder conviction of Bahamian juvenile following concerns over his treatment in police custody

Shavargo McPhee, who was convicted of murder six years ago, has had his conviction quashed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council today in an important decision that emphasises the need for police to adhere to proper safeguards when questioning juveniles.

In November 2008, McPhee, who was at the time 17 years old, was arrested for murder which had occurred in the course of an armed robbery at a food store by two men. The evidence against him included an apparent written confession which was said to have been spontaneously made to the police after 31 hours of detention. However, up until then, he had not spoken to a parent, he had received no legal advice and he had been denied food for almost 24 hours. His appeal to the Privy Council centred upon whether the confession should have been excluded on grounds of unreliability and unfairness.

There were also several periods when McPhee was out of his cell at the police station, which were unexplained by officers and gave rise to concern. Lord Hughes, delivering the decision, said that “neither the detention record nor the evidence of the officers…gave much clue as to what had been happening to him during that time”. The Privy Council found that the irresistible inference was that there had been unrecorded interviews leading up to his confession. Lord Hughes noted that “this requirement for a scrupulous record of all interviews with a suspect is a critical part of modern policing. Experience the world over has shown the damage that can be done to the criminal process by informal interrogations”.

As a juvenile, McPhee’s constitutional right to speak to a parent was also breached when efforts by police officers to contact his mother by telephone failed and they took no further steps to inform a relative or anyone else of his whereabouts. Although a local Bishop was brought into the station to witness the confession, the Privy Council said that the Bishop was “plainly not apprised of the nature of his role” as someone who may actively assist McPhee and make enquiries about the circumstances of his detention.

Taken together, the Privy Council found that it had no doubt that all these factors showed that the State had not proved that McPhee’s confession was reliable. And even if it was reliable, its admission was unfair and it should have been excluded. His conviction was quashed.

-End-

 

Note to Editors 

The Death Penalty Project is an independent international human rights organisation housed in the offices of Soho legal firm Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP. For more than 20 years, The Death Penalty Project has worked to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty.

The Death Penalty Project was instructed by Gina Morley, attorney-at-law in The Bahamas.  Edward Fitzgerald QC from Doughty Street Chambers and Amanda Clift-Matthews (in-house Counsel) were instructed pro bono in this case.

Other News


Legal provision restricting the right to appeal in death penalty cases struck down as a denial of due process

June 2017
In a judgment delivered today, the Privy Council has found unconstitutional a law excluding death ... Read more

British man avoids death penalty after being acquitted of murder in Kenya

June 2017
A British national who was facing the mandatory death penalty for the alleged murder of ... Read more

Mental disorder, the death penalty and international standards in Taiwan

June 2017
On 30th May – 2nd June 2017, Co-Executive Director, Saul Lehrfreund, and forensic psychiatrist, Dr ... Read more

Engaging Chinese lawyers on the death penalty

June 2017
On 3th -4th June the DPP was invited to deliver a series of workshops on ... Read more