St Vincent and the Grenadines

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London remains as the final court of appeal for St Vincent and the Grenadines. St Vincent and the Grenadines retains the death penalty for aggravated murder and treason.

St Vincent and the Grenadines has been a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1981, and has ratified the First Optional Protocol allowing for the right of individual petition. It has neither signed nor ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Whilst a party to the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, it has not signed or ratified the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty nor accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. St Vincent and the Grenadines has not signed the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

As of 1 December 2012, there is one person on death row in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Notable cases that we have worked on include:

  • Spence & Hughes -v- The Queen (St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia) [2001]

This was the first successful challenge to the inhumanity of the mandatory death penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean. It was later endorsed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the related appeals of The Queen -v- Hughes (St Lucia) [2002] 2 AC 259, and Fox -v- The Queen (St Christopher & Nevis) [2002] 2 AC 284.

  • Daniel Dick Trimmingham –v- The State (St Vincent & The Grenadines) [2009] UKPC 25.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council set-down the criteria that must be satisfied before a court can impose a death sentence. First, the death penalty should be imposed only in cases which on the facts of the offence are the most extreme and exception, “the worst of the worst”, or “the rarest of the rare”. Secondly, there must be no reasonable prospect of reform of the offender and that the object of punishment cannot be achieved by any means other than the death sentence. The character of the offender and other relevant circumstances can be taken into account by way of mitigation but cannot be used against him in determining this second criterion.

In this case, the Privy Council allowed the appeal on sentence on the basis that the murder fell short of being the ‘worst of the worst’ so as to justify capital punishment. The Court also emphasised that the object of keeping the prisoner out of society even on a permanent basis can be achieved without executing him.

See our press release here.