(CMR) Osbourne Douglas and Justin Ramoon, who are both in British jails serving life sentences for the murder of Jason Powery, have been granted a new hearing in their fight to serve their sentences in the Cayman Islands.
In a judgment delivered on 27 April, the Court of Appeal ruled that their applications for judicial review be remitted to the Grand Court for a fresh hearing using a closed material procedure.
In 2016, Douglas and Ramoon were convicted after a trial of the 2015 murder of Jason Powery. Reports are that the half-brothers approached a gathering in the vicinity of the Globe Bar, George Town, where Douglas, who had a firearm in his waistband, handed it to Ramoon before he left the scene.
Ramoon fired a shot to the head of the victim at close range and attempted to shoot another man, but the gun did not fire. He then walked away to a car where Douglas was waiting for him.
On 19 December 2016, they were sentenced to life imprisonment, Douglas with a minimum of 34 years, and Ramoon with a minimum of 35 years.
They were sent to HMP Northward. However, on 22 June 2017, Douglas was transferred to the United Kingdom, and Ramoon was transferred on 28 June 2017. Neither prisoner was given any notice before their removal nor any opportunity to make representations until after being confined to prisons in the United Kingdom.
The half brothers, who were alleged gang leaders, had filed an appeal concerning the lawfulness of their removal from the Cayman Islands prison system without a hearing.
The matter was heard before The Hon Sir Richard Field, The Rt. Hon Sir Alan Moses, and The Hon Sir Michael Birt in the Court of Appeal earlier this year.
The Court said that a closed material procedure is available to the Grand Court and the Court of Appeal and ordered: “that the case be remitted for hearing by the Grand Court of the issues of justification and proportionality of the impugned decisions using a CMP.”
The Court also ruled that the interests of the families and children of Osbourne Douglas and Justin Ramoon were not taken into account when orders were made for their removal from the Cayman Islands.
According to the judgment, in which the Governor and the Director of Prison Services were named as respondents, the explanation for their removal without a hearing was that a danger to national security would have been exacerbated by advance warning.
However, the judgment states, “they were not given any advance warning of the decision and thus had no opportunity to challenge it in advance. This is of significance because it is obviously more effective to challenge a proposed decision before a settled view has been reached.”
The judgment stated that if the interests of the Appellant's children “can be shown to have been ignored at the time the decisions were taken, then, irrespective as to whether the balance between the prisoners’ rights and national security was correctly struck, the decisions were flawed.”
The court documents revealed that the need for removal became pressing after an apparent gang-related attack on the men’s mother’s house in June 2017. There were also concerns that if Ramoon was left on the Island, he would take over his brother’s criminal operations within the prison.
The Appeal Court said it could not allow an appeal in that court as the decision for removal is for the removing authority, not for the court.
“The absence of disclosure cannot lead this court to exercise the power conferred on the Governor and Secretary of State; quashing the decisions now will merely lead to an impasse,” the document read.
It said for these reasons, the option of allowing the appeal was not open to the court.
The Court also said it could not dismiss the appeal as dismissing on the basis of the evidence which has been disclosed would not be satisfactory. Instead, the Grand Court will be allowed to make a decision following a new hearing.
While the Court of Appeal leaves the resolution to the Grand Court, the judgment said, ” There is clear evidence that, whatever is said in the initial submissions, the problems of security were not to be solved merely by fresh accommodation. “
The Court also ruled that The Bill of Rights applies to the Governor’s decisions under the 1884 Act; and that the 1884 Act is ‘ in accordance with the law.
According to The Bill of Rights, ” Any person may apply to the Grand Court to claim that government has breached or threatened his or her rights and freedoms under the Bill of Rights, and the Grand Court shall determine such an application fairly and within a reasonable time.”