The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has today handed down five judgments, its first since 3 August 2009 – the longest wait for a new judgment in living memory.  There is one judgment in a civil case, three in criminal cases and one in a judicial review case. The new JCPC website continues to have teething troubles.  The judgments were originally put on the website at 8.00am this morning – before hand down- but were subsequently removed. They have now been replaced and can be accessed from the “Decided Cases” section of the website. No press summaries are available – the links on the site going to blank pages. 

The five judgments are in the following cases:

The case of Johannes Duess v Attorney-General for Bermuda [2009] UKPC 38 was described by the JCPC as “doubly academic”.  It concerned judicial review proceedings relating to the validity of an arrest warrant in support of an extradition request, in circumstances in which the appellant had already voluntarily surrendered.  The JCPC concluded that the case was proceeding on the false assumption that the warrant would only be valid if the appellant was, in fact, accused of an “extradition offence”.  It is clear from paragraph 49 of the judgment that these were points which were not argued but occurred to their Lordships as a result of “grappling with the complexities of this appeal after the hearing had been concluded”.  The JCPC went on to find that, even if that assumption was correct, the warrant had been validly granted.   The case was headline news in the Royal Gazette of Bermuda.

In GFN SA and others v Liquidators of Bancredit Cayman Ltd [2009] UKPC 39 the issue was the power of the Courts in the Cayman Islands to make orders for security for costs.  The JCPC held the the case law made clear.

that the court has an inherent jurisdiction to make security for costs orders but that the exercise of that jurisdiction is subject to what has become the settled practice of the court (para 9).

It was held that an application to the Court by a creditor in a  compulsory winding up by the Court, challenging a decision of  a liquidator was a ‘proceeding’ in respect of which there was jurisdiction to order the creditor to pay security for the costs of those applications.

In Eiley & Ors v The Queen [2009] UKPC 40 (an appeal from Belize) the JCPC allowed appeals in an extraordinary murder case in which the trial had been a catalogue of errors.  The main witness for the Crown, Mr Vasquez, had implicated three men in a murder, in relation to which he appeared to be the main and perhaps only suspect.  He had been given immunity from prosecution and his account was not corroborated.    As Lord Phillips said in the course of his judgment:

“The Board has not been able to dismiss the possibility that on the morning after the murder Mr Vasquez simply pointed to the first group of men that he saw after indicating to the police that he would take them to those who were involved in the crime (para 48).”

In Peter Michel v The Queen [2009] UKPC 41, an appeal from Jersey, the issue was the trial was unfair due to excessive interventions by the trial judge, Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.  Lord Brown introduced the issue and the conclusion with charactertistic clarity in the opening paragraph of the judgment

Not often is defence counsel, appealing against conviction on the grounds of an unfair hearing, able to turn the appeal court’s feeling from initial rueful concern to eventual deep dismay simply by reference to the number and character of the judge’s interventions in the course of the trial. Such, alas, is the position in this case and, overwhelming though the evidence against the appellant may appear to have been, the Board can see no alternative but to set his conviction aside.

During the appellant’s own evidence the Commissioner intervened with substantive questions on no fewer than 273 occasions, 138 of them during evidence in chief. Generally this was with a whole series of questions, taking up in all just over 18% of the appellant’s eight and a half days in the witness box.  The conviction was quashed and the matter remitted to the Jersey Court of Appeal.

In Burnett v State of Trinidad and Tobago [2009] UKPC 42 dealt with the defence of provocation raised by a serving police officer who had shot and killed a member of the public in the course of a disturbance.  It was giving reasons for its decision on 15 July 2009 to remit the case to the Court of Appeal the JCPC held that the issue of provocation should have been left to the jury.