Abdul Budhoo, who is challenging a 62 years’ jail sentence imposed on him for the 2012 killings of two brothers, was on Monday granted leave by the Court of Appeal to appeal against his convictions following an application by his attorney-at-law, Mark Conway. Budhoo, during his trial in 2017, was indicted on two counts of murder over the September 30, 2012 killings of his cousins, Shaheed Bacchus and his brother Imran Bacchus.
He had pleaded not guilty to both charges but was subsequently found guilty by a jury of murdering Imran and was sentenced to 62 years’ imprisonment. As it relates to the killing of Shaheed, Budhoo was found guilty of the lesser count of manslaughter and was sentenced to 32 years’ imprisonment.
The Trial Judge, Navindra Singh, had ordered that the sentences be served concurrently. Based on reports, on September 30, 2012, there was an argument between Budhoo and Shaheed Bacchus over an outstanding financial payment. Shaheed’s brother, Imran Bacchus, intervened. Both brothers were stabbed during the altercation.
Presiding over the case is Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory. During the hearing, Conway made an application for leave to amend the grounds of appeal to include the convictions. Representing the State is Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Teshana Lake. The Appeal Court has fixed November 16, 2020, to hear submissions on the added ground.
On Monday also, the Court of Appeal entertained arguments from Conway on the issue of Justice Singh falling into error regarding a finding of provocation relative to directions given to the jury for the killing of Imran Bacchus. The lawyer argued that if the Judge had appropriately directed the jurors, there is a possibility that they may have returned a manslaughter verdict in relation to the killing of Imran.
Among other things, Conway is contending that the 32-year sentence for the manslaughter verdict in relation to the killing of Shaheed Bacchus, having considered the facts of the offences and the Trial Judge’s failure to apply established principles of sentencing, rendered this sentence unjustified.
Citing relevant case laws, Conway submitted that Justice Singh failed to fully credit his client for any time he spent in custody prior to sentencing when he recorded in the Records of Appeal that “time on remand is to be deducted at the discretion of the Trial Judge.”
In calculating a sentence on the manslaughter conviction, Conway outlined that the Trial Judge started at a base of 35 years from which a deduction of three years was made for the favourable probation report for his client. Conway further submitted that the appeal against the severity of the sentence for the offence of manslaughter has merit, as the Trial Judge erred in law by failing to apply case law principles that promote fairness in sentencing.
The lawyer submitted that the Sentencing Guidelines Council, in its guideline for manslaughter by reason of provocation, noted that a number of elements had to be considered and balanced by the sentencer, such as the degree of the provocation, the extent and timing of the retaliation, the circumstances of the killing, the relationship between the offender and the victim, the behaviour of the offender after the killing, and the type of weapon used and whether it had been to hand or had been carried to the scene.
Against this backdrop, he argued that the foregoing can be argued in favour of Budhoo, who did not enter into the altercation with a weapon [knife] in hand, and at that time he had no intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, although he had the knife on his person.
The lawyer noted that his client did not use the weapon at the onset, but until he had a “sudden and temporary loss of self-control”. In fact, Conway noted, “…the weapon was used two to three minutes after the cuffing/punching had started, which is the likely act of being hit by [Imran] that gave rise to the provocation…”
Based upon the events as stated by one of the prosecution’s witnesses regarding the death of Imran, Conway argued that his client may not have intended to kill him, but due to his sudden and temporary loss of self-control, he attacked anyone at the said instant who was within his reach.