Ramjattan v The State

 

 

 

Indravani Ramjattan   Appellant
  v.  
The State

 

  Respondent
  FROM  

 

         THE COURT OF APPEAL OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

   —————

REASONS  FOR  DECISION  OF  THE  LORDS

OF  THE  JUDICIAL  COMMITTEE  OF  THE  PRIVY

COUNCIL  UPON A PETITION FOR SPECIAL

LEAVE TO APPEAL AS A POOR PERSON

OF  THE   3rd February 1999,

Delivered the  4th March 1999

——————

Present at the hearing:-

Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

Sir Andrew Leggatt

 [Delivered by Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough]  

——————

 

This petitioner’s petition (along with her supplemental petition) was heard on 3rd February 1999 at the same time as petitions of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire.  At the conclusion of the hearing, their Lordships announced that the petitions of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire were dismissed and that the petition of Indravani Ramjattan would be allowed in terms and for reasons to be announced later.

 

On 29th May 1995, after a trial in the First Criminal Court at Port of Spain Assizes before Deyalsingh J. and a jury, the petitioner and Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire were each convicted of the murder of Alexander Jordan on 12th February 1991.  Their appeals against conviction to the Court of Appeal were dismissed on 10th March 1997 and their petitions for special leave to appeal to Her Majesty in Council were dismissed on 6th November 1997.  The petition heard on 3rd February was the petitioner’s second petition, the others heard that day were also second petitions.

 

Their Lordships’ Board has jurisdiction to hear further petitions in respect of the same matter notwithstanding the dismissal of earlier petitions.  The jurisdiction will however only be exercised in exceptional cases where new grounds of appeal are raised of such a character and of sufficient merit to justify a second petition.  A second petition will not be entertained where the proposed grounds are in substance the same as those argued on the earlier petition or grounds which should properly have been argued at that time.  (Christopher Bethel v. The State, the Privy Council, 10th December 1998).  These propositions follow from the requirements of the administration of justice and the achievement of finality in the appellate process.  Further the proposed grounds must be of sufficient merit to justify the granting of special leave to appeal.

 

The petitioner seeks leave to adduce new evidence, not previously relied upon, to support an allegation of diminished responsibility.  If she can establish the facts required by section 4A of the Offences Against the Person Act 1925, she would have a defence to the charge of murder.  At the trial she did not raise the defence of diminished responsibility or put in any evidence which would have sufficed to make out any such defence.  She now seeks leave to adduce evidence provided by Dr. Eastman, a distinguished psychiatrist, who has expressed the opinion that she was at the time of the commission of the crime suffering from an abnormality of the mind which he considers could be thought capable of reducing her responsibility for the crime.  It is said on her behalf that she was unable to adduce this evidence earlier because she did not have the financial resources nor any reasonable opportunity to engage a psychiatrist to conduct a psychiatric examination of her and make a report capable of being used in legal proceedings.  Their Lordships were informed that it was not routine in Trinidad for the mental health of defendants in murder cases to be assessed at or before the time of arraignment.

 The petitioner submits that she has an adequate explanation of her failure to obtain this evidence earlier and that her case provides an analogy with the English Court of Appeal cases, such as R. v. Ahluwalia [1992] 4 All E.R. 889, where defendants were permitted to adduce evidence of an abnormality of the mind and obtain orders for a retrial so that they could raise the defence of diminished responsibility.  Further, she relies on the decisions of their Lordships’ Board in cases such as Bethel (supra) and Cardinal Williams v. The Queen (23rd November 1998) where orders were made, either on the hearing of the appeal to the Board or the hearing of the petition for leave to appeal, remitting the case to the relevant Court of Appeal for a further hearing of the appeal taking into account the new evidence tendered.

 

 On this petition, their Lordships confined their consideration to the question whether a sufficient case had been made out for remission to the Court of Appeal. Having decided to remit, they did not enter upon the question whether the Court of Appeal should accept the new evidence nor what weight the Court of Appeal  should give it nor whether it did indeed justify the quashing of her conviction for murder and substituting a conviction for manslaughter or the ordering of a retrial.  All these are matters for the Court of Appeal to decide: they may choose to hear oral evidence: evidence in rebuttal of the new evidence may be adduced: what in the upshot the evidence proves and what its admissibility and relevance if called at the trial would have been  will have to be assessed as will the petitioner’s explanation for not having adduced that evidence at the trial.

 

 Their Lordships have after some hesitation decided that the evidence of Dr. Eastman does justify a remission to the Court of Appeal so that the Court of Appeal may reconsider the appeal of Indravani Ramjattan taking into account that evidence.  They do not overlook that there are still obstacles to be overcome before she can successfully challenge the jury’s verdict.  Before their Lordships Mr. Dingemans, on behalf of The State, forcefully compared some of the factual assumptions made by Dr. Eastman with the evidence given at the trial, including the consideration of what evidence the jury must be taken to have accepted and rejected.  He similarly questioned whether there would have been a realistic prospect that the jury would have come to the conclusion that her responsibility for the murder was reduced by any abnormality of her mind at the relevant time.  Where a psychiatrist first considers the case many years after the event and inevitably has to rely on second-hand evidence, including statements made to a psychiatrist by the petitioner herself, the court always has to consider whether the facts upon which the psychiatrist has based his expert opinion have been established by admissible and credible evidence.  Not every appellant is able to do this.  (For example see Reg. v. Ahmed Din 46 C.A.R. 269 and Reg. v. Bathurst [1968] 2 Q.B. 99).

 

All these matters will be for the Court of Appeal to consider.  It will also be for the Court of Appeal to consider what, if any, basis the evidence which they have decided to accept provides for challenging the murder verdict of the jury in the case of Indravani Ramjattan. Before their Lordships’ Board, the petitioner argued that the alleged abnormality of her mind would affect other aspects of the case against her than just the question of diminished responsibility.  Their Lordships were not persuaded by those arguments.  Nor did their Lordships accept the argument that the evidence of Dr. Eastman, if available at the time of the trial, would have affected the conduct of the trial beyond possibly enabling Indravani Ramjattan herself to argue the statutory defence of diminished responsibility.  Their Lordships’ Board did not allow her petition upon any other basis; specifically the grounds A(ii) to (iv) and B of her main petition and paragraphs 6 to 8 of her supplementary petition were not accepted and the Court of Appeal is not required to consider them.  It should also be noted that their Lordships’ Board have dismissed the petitions of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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