J’can wins landmark court victory in Bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda (CMC) — A Jamaican who claimed his constitutional rights were infringed because he was not allowed to apply for parole after serving a third of a jail sentence has won a landmark victory in Bermuda’s Supreme Court.

Leighton Griffiths was convicted in 2007 of importing 480 grams of cocaine hidden inside an air compressor.

He was initially sentenced to 14 years in prison but that was later reduced to 12 years by the Court of Appeal.

Earlier this year Griffiths, who is married to a Bermudian, launched legal action because as a foreign national he was denied the opportunity to be released on license after serving a third of his sentence although he was otherwise qualified for such early release.

He claimed that the provisions of the Prison Act 1979, which set down the rules surrounding prisoner’s access to parole, breached section 12 – that prevents discrimination on the grounds of place of origin – of the Bermuda constitution.

In a written judgment, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled in favour of Griffiths saying his constitutional rights had been infringed.

“The provisions of the Prisons Act 1979 relating to parole as applied to the applicant as a Jamaican national who presently has no opportunity to apply for any form of early release discriminate against him on the grounds of his place of origin in contravention of his rights under section 12 of the Bermuda constitution,” said Kawaley.

Bermudians and people with an unrestricted right to live and work in Bermuda are able to apply for release on license in Bermuda after serving a third of their sentence.

Nationals originating from some countries, including the United Kingdom, are also able to obtain an early release on license because their governments have agreed to supervise them on their return to their countries of origin.

The Royal Gazette newspaper said, however, that Jamaica has not agreed to accept prisoners released on license.

As a result Griffiths was required to remain in prison for twice as long as those prisoners who were able to obtain parole.

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