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Privy Council reviews 21-y-o case of senior citizen

Published:Thursday | September 11, 2014 | 9:00 AM

THE LOCAL Privy Council has reviewed the case of the senior citizen who has been languishing in prison for the past 21 years because of an error made by a judge in 1993, and he will know next month if he will be released.

In July, K. Churchill Neita, QC, wrote to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen outlining the plight of 59-year-old William Purcell.

The governor general sent a letter this week to Neita outlining that the petition for remission of the remainder of sentence for Purcell was considered by the Privy Council on September 2. The matter was deferred pending the receipt by the governor general of a comprehensive report on Purcell's conduct during his incarceration and on his ability to reintegrate into his community should he be released.

Neita was also informed it was expected that the Department of Correctional Services will provide the information prior to the next meeting of the Privy Council scheduled for October 7.

William Purcell's troubles began in 1993, when a judge ordered him to serve a mandatory life sentence for gun offences, although more than 10 years earlier, the law had been changed to demand that a specific period of imprisonment be given for such offences.

In September last year, Purcell wrote to the governor general pleading for mercy, but he got no response.

Neita, on hearing of the situation from a man who was recently released from prison, contacted Purcell and interviewed him.

On July 11, Neita wrote to Sir Patrick asking him to request the local Privy Council to consider bringing an end to Purcell's sentence of life imprisonment.

In 1993, Purcell was convicted for the second time of charges of illegal possession of a firearm and robbery with aggravation. He was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, but that sentence expired in 2002.

During the sentencing hearing, it was brought to the court's attention that Purcell had violated his parole in connection with his first offence of illegal possession of a firearm and robbery with aggravation for which he was sentenced in 1978 to life imprisonment.

On learning of the parole violation, the judge ordered that Purcell should complete the life sentence.

Neita explained that the judge did not take into consideration the changes to the law in the 1980s, which abolished mandatory life sentence for gun offences. The amendment had led to the review of the cases of more than 400 prisoners.

- B.G.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com