CCJ throws out ex-solider’s application to overturn manslaughter sentence

Caribbean Court of Justice

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) this morning (Friday, October 25, 2019) dismissed an application for special leave filed by former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) solider Mark Fraser to appeal a decision by the Court of Appeal in Guyana, which had upheld his four-year conviction for manslaughter.

In a decision read by Justice Peter Jamadar, the Trinidad-based regional court found that no potentially serious miscarriage of justice had occurred.

Fraser was convicted for the killing of fellow solider, Oneal Rollins, on October 26, 2006. It was reported that he was heading out on patrol when he stopped to uplift an AK-47 from the army base at Buxton, East Coast Demerara, during which Rollins was shot and killed.

On November 14, 2007, Fraser was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in the High Court and sentenced to four years imprisonment. After filing an appeal against his conviction, and obtaining bail on December 17, 2007, Fraser never returned to prison. His appeal was then fixed for hearing almost 10 years later, but that hearing was further delayed as the record of appeal was not made available to his attorneys until October 4, 2017.

While Fraser’s appeal against his conviction was dismissed by the Guyana Court of Appeal, the Court did, however, agreed that the delay in proceedings breached his Article 144 (1) right to a fair hearing within reasonable time and stayed any further imprisonment.

The former GDF member then applied to the CCJ for special leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal refusing to set aside his conviction.

In dismissing his application for special leave this morning, the CCJ found the approach of the Court of Appeal in hearing the constitutional delay challenge and the substantive appeal together to be wise and prudent. This, according to Justice Jamadar, allows the Court of Appeal to properly consider what might be a just and effective remedy for the breach of the applicant’s Article 144(1) right.

The Court further indicated that it did not find any flaws in the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the conviction was sound, and that there were no special or exceptional circumstances established to justify cancelling the conviction.

To this end, the CCJ found that there was no proper basis upon which to grant special leave to Fraser and as such, his application was dismissed.

Also presiding in Court during this morning’s ruling were: CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders along with Justices Jacob Wit, Winston Anderson and Denys Barrow.

Meanwhile, Fraser was resented by Attorney-at-law Kamal Ramkarran while the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack appeared on behalf of the State. They witnessed the ruling via video conference from the Court of Appeal in Kingston, Georgetown.