Prior to 2006 BHRC sent junior barrister volunteers to Kingston to support Jamaican lawyers undertaking death row cases at first instance and on appeal.
The project was administered by a small group of BHRC barristers aware of the difficulties faced by local attorneys in representing defendants charged with capital murder and alert to concerns over the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
BHRC worked with the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights, a grassroots NGO in whose offices the volunteers were based. The project received significant core funding in 2003 which enabled four UK barristers to assist in Jamaica over the year and permitted the organisation of an advocacy and human rights conference. A number of Chambers generously contributed funds to allow the scheme to continue. The project received positive feedback from the Jamaican Bar, judiciary, press and human rights community. A record number of cases were prepared for trial and the first acquittal was granted. In preparing these cases the volunteers were able to identify and pursue legal and evidential points that would not have been taken were it not for their presence. There have been occasions where points raised by volunteers but not pursued at trial, for whatever reason, enabled successful appeals to be mounted. Volunteers also reported that their presence had indirect beneficial effects. A number of attorneys asked volunteers to accompany them to court when making applications, believing that judges would be less ready to dismiss those applications if aware of the attorneys’ affiliation to a human rights association of the UK Bar. The scheme developed a strong reputation for the quality of assistance provided amongst attorneys, defendants and others in the community.
Read more in the Report on the Jamaican Death Row Pro-bono Project 2003/2004
2006 – 2007
The BHRC set-up a project in Jamaica which focused on assisting in cases and working with attorneys in certain Caribbean countries. The work received funding from the generosity of various chambers.
Selected barristers worked at the Independent Jamaican Council of Human Rights in Kingston, Jamaica. They worked independently of the Council and their remit was to identify and prepare the defence of those who have been sentenced to death. Some appeal work was undertaken. Much of the work involved frequent trips to St. Catherine’s prison in Spanish Town – where “death row” is located. In addition, the barristers worked alongside the attorneys who are instructed in these cases and provided them much needed support and assistance.
Kirsty Brimelow of the BHRC went to Jamaica in 2005/2006 in order to oversee the project and recommend changes. Kirsty Brimelow also worked on numerous cases and met a group of dedicated and conscientious attorneys who work tirelessly to combat many of the problems within the justice system. Kirsty Brimelow was in Jamaica at a time of huge legislative change as the mandatory death sentence had been held to be unconstitutional by the Privy Council. She was involved in many of the resentencing hearings for those who, originally, had been sentenced to death.