Guyana to remove excess powers from DPP after CCJ ruling in Marcus Bisram case – AG

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US-based Guyanese and former murder accused Marcus Bisram

Following a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Tuesday that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack cannot direct a member of the judiciary, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall said government will now have to amend the laws to remove this power from that constitutional office.

After a magistrate had dismissed a murder case against accused US-based Guyanese Marcus Bisram, the DPP had directed the court to reopen the case and commit the him to stand trial in the High Court for the murder of Berbice carpenter Faiyaz Narinedatt.

But Bisram had challenged the DPP’s directions and the matter went all the way to the CCJ, which handed down its ruling on Tuesday.

Weighing in on the ruling during his weekly programme – “Issues in the News” – Nandlall said, “the CCJ found that, that power residing in the Office of Director of Public Prosecution being a power that authorises a non-judicial organ to instruct a judiciary or a component of the judiciary, that power transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers and is unconstitutional, because only an organ of the judiciary can direct another organ of the judiciary because the judiciary as a whole is independent.”

According to the AG, the power that the DPP used when she directed the magistrate was contained in the Criminal Law Procedure Act and was inherited from the British when Guyana gained independence.

He noted that while the CCJ recognised this, the regional court – which is Guyana’s highest and final court of resort – recommended that this provision in the country’s laws be changed.

“That provision cannot withstand constitutionality and the CCJ struck it down and basically has indicated to us in Guyana that we will have to go to Parliament to modify or amend that provision that they are suggesting that, that power be transferred from the Director of Public Prosecutions and be resided in a judge of the High Court,” the AG explained.

To this end, Nandlall said government will be moving in this direction.

“It’s a very progressive ruling and we will have to amend the law to suit since that is the highest court of our judiciary and there is no appeal beyond that,” the AG noted.

Bisram was extradited from the United States to Guyana in 2019 to face the murder charge following a prolonged fight in the US courts to block the extradition.

In 2020, a magistrate dismissed the matter after finding that the prosecution’s case against the accused was weak – and as such, Bisram was freed.

But the DPP then instructed the magistrate to reinstitute the murder charge, resulting in Bisram being rearrested.

The magistrate was also instructed by the DPP to commit the matter over to the High Court for a jury trial.

Bisram’s lawyers challenged the DPP’s instructions and in 2020, he was again freed of the charge after Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall ruled that the DPP’s instructions were unlawful.

However, the DPP moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge this ruling. The DPP won its appeal – clearing the way for the charge to be filed again.

But Bisram’s lawyers challenged the matter before the CCJ – Guyana’s court of final resort where he essentially won his case. 

The charge that was brought against Bisram alleged that between October 31, 2016, and November 1, 2016, at Number 70 Village, Corentyne, he counseled, procured and commanded Harri Paul Parsram, Radesh Motie, Niran Yacoob, Diodath Datt and Orlando Dickie to murder Narinedatt.