Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Constitutional Court to rule this morning on immunity certificates in Keith Clarke case

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 8:16 AM
Keith Clarke... was shot dead at his home by soldiers in 2010

The Constitutional Court will this morning rule on the legality of immunity certificates issued by then National Security Minister Peter Bunting in 2016 to three soldiers accused of the 2010 shooting death of businessman Keith Clarke. 

The soldiers - Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin and Private Arnold Henry - were set to stand trial in April 2018 for the May 27, 2010 murder of Clarke, who was shot 21 times inside his Kirkland Close, St Andrew home. 

When they went to Clarke's house, the soldiers were searching for west Kingston crime lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke who was wanted for extradition to the United States on racketeering charges.

Two years ago, lawyers representing the army men presented to the court, the certificates of immunity signed by Bunting causing the judge to halt the proceedings. 

Widow Claudette Clarke, supported by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) then challenged the constitutionality of the certificates. 

IN PHOTO: DPP Paula Llewellyn 

A Full Court panel comprising Justices Leighton Pusey, Marcia Dunbar Green and Annmarie Nembhard heard the arguments last November. 

Click here to listen the live stream of the ruling at 9 a.m today: www.supremecourt.gov.jm

Attorney-at-law Dr Lloyd Barnett, who is representing Clarke, argued that the certificates were void because they “conflict with the Constitution”.

He also argued that the “ministerial certificate” had the effect of interfering with, or influencing, the powers of the ODPP, as outlined in the Constitution, as well as the normal jurisdiction of the court.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Jackson, the attorney representing INDECOM, pointed out that regulations under which the certificates were granted expired on June 29, 2010, “without extension”.

It was also argued that there was no evidence that Bunting conducted a proper assessment of the men’s actions to issue the certificates in good faith. 

READ: Attorneys spar over immunity in Keith Clarke case

Queen’s Counsel Michael Hylton, the attorney who represented the soldiers, said that protection is available to his clients “as long as you have a right to bring a claim against them”.

IN PHOTO: Michael Hylton

Hylton said questions about any assessment of the soldiers’ actions during the operation were not one of the issues before the court.

He also dismissed Barnett’s assertion that the issuance of the certificate would fetter the supervisory role of the courts.

Clarke's killing came days after Coke escaped a joint police-military operation in his west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens in which more than 70 persons were killed.

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