Vinette Graham-Allen



Jamaica October 2000 - The Jamaica Gleaner

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is now without seven of its 16 senior prosecutors, including some who have resigned.....

Vinette Graham-Allen, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, who was acting as Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and had been to the United Kingdom Privy Council twice, went on vacation leave in September and has since taken up a job as Senior Crown Counsel in Bermuda. She will resign at the end of her leave later this year.....

Asked the reasons for the resignations, several prosecutors said they did not see any scope for promotion in the office. Three senior prosecutors said that they were not happy with certain matters taking place in the department. However, they preferred not to comment on them. They said too that although clerks from the Resident Magistrate's Courts were brought in to fill the vacancies, those junior prosecutors would have to undergo training before they would be able handle Circuit Court and Court of Appeal cases on their own.

"There are certain things happening in the department with which some of us are very upset," said a senior prosecutor, who told The Sunday Gleaner that he planned to leave the department at the end of the year.

However he said that he would prefer not to comment further on the problems until they were aired at the next meeting of the Legal Officers Staff Association, scheduled for next month. Pressed further, he said that they were disgusted with the manner in which a senior member was being treated. He said that the feeling among the disgruntled senior staff members is that whatever happened to one could happen to others.

JAMAICA Constitution Human rights and fundamental freedoms Legal representation Withdrawal of defendant's counsel during capital trial Defendant thereafter unrepresented Whether trial unfair Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council 1962 (SI 1962 No 1550), Sch 2, s 20(6)(c) Poor Prisoners' Defence Act, Sch 3, r 14

Mitchell (John) v The Queen

PC: Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Clyde and Lord Hutton: 28 June 1999

After the withdrawal of the defendant's counsel during his murder trial the judge should have adjourned for a reasonable time for the question of alternative counsel to be investigated, and failure to do so had deprived the defendant of a fair trial.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council allowed the appeal of the defendant, John Mitchell, against the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of Jamaica of his appeal against a conviction of capital murder on 30 May 1996 in the Home Circuit Court, Kingston.
Counsel assigned to the defendant under the Poor Prisoners' Defence Act had been released by the judge after the defendant had expressed his dissatisfaction with counsel and his desire to cross-examination witnesses himself. By r 14 of Sch 3 to the Act a person who refused to accept the services of counsel assigned to him under a legal aid certificate in respect of any proceedings was not entitled to have other counsel assigned in respect thereof. Under s 20(6)(c) of the Constitution of Jamaica every person charged with a criminal offence was permitted to defend himself in person or by a legal representative of his own choice.

LORD SLYNN OF HADLEY, delivering the judgment of their Lordships, said that r 14 was aimed at preventing a defendant from changing his counsel at will. The authorities had at least a discretion to change counsel where counsel and client had lost confidence in each other, or where counsel was professionally embarrassed. The proper approach to withdrawal of counsel was stated in Dunkley v The Queen [1995] 1 AC 419, 428. All the circumstances had to be taken into account in considering whether justice required on a capital charge that more should have been done to seek to ensure that the defendant was represented. The judge could not have been satisfied that the defendant would not, or might not, suffer prejudice by the withdrawal of counsel, and failed to consider whether the trial should be adjourned to enable the defendant to try to obtain alternative representation. The lack of representation was not due to the defendant's fault. There should have been an adjournment to see whether other counsel was able and willing to represent him or at least to advise him on the courses open to him. He had been in prison seven years and on death row over three years. Retrials after such a long period were undesirable, but the prosecution case was strong. The conviction should be quashed and the case remitted to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica to consider whether a trial should be ordered.

Appearances: Philip Sapsford QC and Murray Shanks (Lawrence Graham) for the defendant; Kent Pantry QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Jamaica, and Vinette Graham-Allen, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Jamaica (Charles Russell) for the Crown.




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