A manslaughter verdict was substituted today in place of a murder conviction for Stephen Robinson, for killing a security guard in Trinidad & Tobago in 2002. Robinson, who suffers from chronic schizophrenia, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2009, despite uncontroverted medical evidence which showed him to be affected by illness at the time.
The Privy Council, still Trinidad & Tobago’s highest court, said that Robinson unquestionably suffered from a chronic and incurable disease at the time of the killing and could not be said to be entirely responsible for his actions. Fresh evidence in the form of a forensic psychiatric report was provided to the court confirming the appellant’s medical condition.
Evidence of mental illness can mean the difference between life and death in Trinidad & Tobago where the death penalty is still mandatory for murder. However, raising the defence is often hampered by the lack of resources available for obtaining forensic psychiatric and psychological evaluations. In a series of cases brought by The Death Penalty Project over the last decade, a large number of convictions have been overturned based on fresh medical evidence.
Next year, in appeals from Trinidad & Tobago, the Privy Council is to rule upon the constitutionality of imposing a death sentence on someone who suffers from mental disorder.
Full judgment available here.
Read the Times Law Report .
Paul Bowen QC from Brick Court Chambers and Stephen Broach from Monckton Chambers were instructed pro bono in this case, along with Amanda Clift-Matthews.
Dr Marc Lyall of Forensic Psychiatry Chambers was instructed pro bono to carry out an assessment of Mr Robinson and to provide expert evidence.
Photo credit: mpburrows (Flickr, Creative Commons), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode