Marcus Bisram returns to US following CCJ ruling

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Businessman Marcus Bisram has returned to the United States (US) days after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) freed him of a murder charge unless the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) can obtain “fresh evidence” linking him to the alleged crime.

The US citizen arrived in the US on Friday evening and was welcomed by friends, business partners and family members. Upon his arrival in New York, he was escorted to Manhattan where he was given a grand welcome.

Pending its ruling, the CCJ had ordered Bisram to lodge his passport with the Supreme Court of Judicature and remain in Guyana, with instructions to report to the Divisional Commander or Deputy Commander of Police B Division.

The very day the court rendered its judgement, Bisram and his legal team held a press conference during which he expressed that justice has been served. “I feel great; justice has been served. I am very happy that my name is cleared and I could go back to my normal life,” an elated Bisram said.

Bisram was charged with murder on the basis that he counselled and procured the death of Berbice carpenter and father of two, Faiyaz Narinedatt who was found dead on the Number 70 Village, Corentyne, Berbice roadway back in October 2016.

On two occasions, Magistrate Renita Singh, who conducted a Preliminary Inquiry (PI), found that there was not sufficient evidence to commit Bisram to stand trial for the capital offence, and accordingly, discharged him.

The Magistrate, nevertheless, committed him to stand trial on the direction of the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC. Bisram then filed judicial review proceedings, challenging the DPP’s directive. High Court Judge Simone Morris-Ramlall, having reviewed those proceedings, quashed the decisions of the DPP and the Magistrate.

Justice Morris-Ramlall ruled that the DPP acted unlawfully, as there was not sufficient evidence against Bisram to warrant his committal. The DPP then appealed Justice Morris-Ramlall’s decision to the Court of Appeal of Guyana which set aside the Judge’s decision after finding that the DPP’s directive was lawful. Bisram was granted special leave to appeal the decision of the Appeal Court to the CCJ.

At the regional court, Queen’s Counsel Dharshan Ramdhani, on behalf of Bisram, contended that Section 72 of the Criminal Law (Procedure) Act – the statute which empowers the DPP to direct a Magistrate – is unconstitutional because it violated Articles 122A and 144 of the Constitution and the separation of powers doctrine.

The Trinidad-based court, in a unanimous decision, upheld the lawyer’s arguments.

Noting that Article 122A entrenches the principle of judicial independence, and Article 144, the right to the protection of the law, the CCJ held that a law which renders a Magistrate’s professional decision-making subject to the dictates of another official, “cuts straight through Article 122A and must be declared void.”

According to the CCJ, striking down Section 72 would leave a substantial gap in the criminal procedure, without any certainty as to when that gap will be closed.

As such, the apex court said that until the National Assembly addresses this, Section 72, should be modified to provide that a DPP, who is for good reason disappointed with the decision of a Magistrate to discharge an accused person, may place before a Judge, the depositions and other material that were before the Magistrate on an ex parte application for the discharged accused to be arrested and committed if the Judge is of the view that the material justifies such a course of action.

The CCJ also found that it would be unjust, in all of the circumstances, for Bisram to be made to answer any charge of murder in this case on the same evidence as was presented to the Magistrate. However, because Bisram, at least in terms of the law, was never placed in jeopardy, the regional court ruled that nothing prevents the DPP from having him re-arrested and charged again if “fresh evidence” was obtained linking him to the alleged murder.

Meanwhile, following the landmark ruling, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, announced that the Government will take steps to amend the law to remove this power from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

During his weekly programme “Issues in the News”, he said, “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.”

Bisram was extradited from the United States to Guyana in 2019 to face the murder charge. There was an extended fight in the US courts to block his extradition. He was eventually charged and remanded to prison for the murder of Narinedatt of Number 72 Village Corentyne, Berbice.

It is alleged that on the day of the killing, Bisram had a party at his home, which Narinedatt and others attended. Media reports are that Narinedatt went to the yard and was followed by Bisram, who reportedly began “feeling him up.”

It was reported that Narinedatt slapped and chucked Bisram, who allegedly directed his friends to kill him. According to reports, several men had beaten the carpenter and dumped his body on the Number 70 Village Corentyne, Berbice road.

It was reported that they then drove over his body at Number 70 Village Corentyne, Berbice, to make it appear like a vehicular accident.

Five other men: Orlando Dickie, Radesh Motie, Diodath Datt, Harri Paul Parsram, and Niran Yacoob, are currently awaiting trial at the High Court in Berbice for Narinedatt’s murder.