Nimrod Miguel has received a sentence of nineteen and half years’ imprisonment, after previously being sentenced to death under the felony-murder rule in Trinidad.
Although abolished in the United Kingdom in 1957, the felony-murder rule persists in certain Caribbean jurisdictions, and permits a person to be convicted of murder if death is caused in the course of a violent offence, even though no death or serious injury was intended. The felony-murder rule has been widely criticised as “harsh” and “oppressive” and can result in wholly disproportionate sentences. In this case, it meant Mr Miguel, who was party to a robbery, was convicted of murder for a shooting, despite the fact that he was not the shooter and had expressly refused to take part in the shooting.
Mr Miguel’s case was referred back to the Trinidad Court of Appeal for sentencing, after the Privy Council, in June 2011, quashed his death sentence and ruled that the mandatory imposition of a death sentence in Trinidad and Tobago for a felony-murder was unconstitutional. (Read the full JCPC judgment)
The Death Penalty Project provided detailed submissions to the Court of Appeal setting out why life sentences should not be the norm in these kinds of cases and that fixed, determinate sentences were appropriate, in order to mitigate some of the harshness of the felony-murder rule. The Death Penalty Project had previously assisted Mr Miguel during his proceedings before the Privy Council.
On 24 June 2014, the Court of Appeal sentenced Mr Miguel to 30 years, but reduced it further after taking into account the time spent in prison since his arrest.
Edward Fitzgerald QC and Ruth Brander of Doughty Street Chambers were instructed pro bono to assist local counsel.
Read the Court of Appeal sentencing judgment