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DPP not to touch Bisram, Appeal Court ruling suspended as CCJ gets involved

DPP's power to overturn magistrates decisions not sitting well with the CCJ

L-R DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack, Marcus Bisram

Almost two weeks after the Guyana Court of Appeal ruled that Marcus Bisram must face trial for the 2016 murder of Berbice carpenter Faiyaz Narinedatt, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Friday suspended the judgment of the lower court until it hears and determines an appeal.

The CCJ has also ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, not to take steps to arrest Bisram.

As such, Bisram remains a free man until the CCJ determines the matter.

Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, Bisram’s lawyers  Darshan Ramdhanie, QC, Arudranauth Gossai Dexter Todd and Sanjeev Datafin moved to the CCJ seeking leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal.

The application was granted on Friday.

Almost one year ago, in June 2020, Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall granted an order of certiorari quashing a directive by the DPP to Magistrate Renita Singh for Bisram, a US-based Guyanese to be committed to stand trial for Narinedatt’s murder at the High Court in Berbice.

At the time, Justice Morris-Ramlall said that at the conclusion of a Preliminary Inquiry (PI), the evidence led by the prosecution against Bisram was insufficient, or, in other words, not of the quality that a reasonable jury properly directed could safely convict on it.

The Judge had noted that the state or extent of the evidence is a relevant factor that should have been taken into account by the DPP in arriving at her decisions.

But in overturning the decision of Justice Ramlall, the Court of Appeal led by Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards held, “We are of the view that the committal proceedings by the magistrate and the direction by the [DPP] would not have been invalid.”

Justice Cummings-Edwards underscored that the issues raised in this case would be better ventilated at the trial court before a jury.

The DPP has always maintained that her directive for Bisram to be committed to stand trial for murder is lawful, as there is sufficient evidence against him, for which a reasonable jury if properly directed, could safely convict.

Bisram’s lawyers, on the other hand, maintains that the directive from the DPP to the Magistrate, to commit Bisram to stand trial was unlawful and that it offends the separation of powers doctrine.

According to Bisram’s counsel, the determination of whether a prima facie case was made out is a judicial process that has to be determined by the Magistrate at the PI and not the DPP.

Bisram was charged with the 2016 murder of Faiyaz Narinedatt, a young father of two of Number 72 Village Corentyne, Berbice. It was reported that on the night of October 31, 2016, Narinedatt attended a party Bisram hosted at his home.

It is alleged that Bisram made sexual advances to Narinedatt. It was reported that after the carpenter rejected Bisram’s advances by slapping him, Bisram ordered some men to kill him. Narinedatt’s body was later found on the roadway. Five other men are currently on remand awaiting trial at the High Court in Berbice for Narinedatt’s murder.