Wed | Apr 25, 2018

Local Privy Council to hear case of man languishing in prison for 21 years

Published:Monday | August 18, 2014 | 9:15 AM

The senior citizen who has been languishing in prison for the past 21 years because of an error made by a judge in 1993 will have his case reviewed next month by the local Privy Council.

Last month Queen's counsel K Churchill Neita wrote to the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen outlining the plight of 59-year-old William Purcell.

Neita says in replying to his letter, the Governor thanked him for highlighting Purcell's situation.

He said the Governor General told him that his team was doing its own investigations and the matter has been scheduled to come before the local Privy Council in September.

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.

Attorney-at-law Churchill 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 the governor general asking him to request the local Privy Council to consider bringing an end Purcell's sentence of life imprisonment.

In 1993 when Purcell was convicted for the second time on the charges of illegal possession of a firearm and robbery with aggravation, he was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

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.

However, 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.

Now Purcell is hoping for a favourable outcome when his case comes up before the local Privy Council in the next few weeks.


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Jamaica Gleaner