Rowan Pennington-Benton Instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (London) for the Respondent
lord lloyd-jones and lord hamblen:
This appeal concerns the correct approach under Bahamian law to the grant of an extension of time for the bringing of an appeal in criminal proceedings. An extension of time is required in any case in which the appeal is not brought within 21 days of conviction.
The appellant contends that the correct approach is that set out in the Court of Appeal decision in Alexander Williams v The Queen (SCCrApp No 155 of 2016) (“Williams”) and that this requires an extension of time to be given notwithstanding the period of delay or the reasons for it, if the prospects of success of the intended appeal are good.
It is submitted that in refusing the appellant an extension of time in the present case the Court of Appeal erred in failing to follow this approach and/or in failing to give proper consideration to the merits of the appeal.
The factual background
On 24 March 2012 in Abaco, The Bahamas, Wendell Miller (popularly known as “Schemer”) was killed as a result of a stab wound to his neck. The appellant was arrested and charged with murder the same day. It was the prosecution evidence that the appellant admitted stabbing Wendell Miller both to the arresting officer, Sergeant Cash, and in a statement made under caution to the investigating officer, Travon Gibson. The making of the latter statement was supported in evidence by another police officer and by the interpreter. The appellant was also said to have taken a police officer to a bushy area in the vicinity of his residence where the knife was found. During his evidence at trial the appellant said that he had not stabbed the deceased, he had not told the police that he had stabbed him and he did not have a knife. He also relied on self-defence and the trial judge, Hartman Longley J, further directed the jury to consider the partial defence of provocation.
On 26 February 2013 the appellant was convicted of the murder of Wendell Miller. On 3 May 2013 he was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment.
On 30 May 2019 the appellant filed an appeal against conviction and sentence after obtaining assistance from the Office of the Public Defender. He also sought an extension of the 21 day time limit for the bringing of an appeal.
The only explanation advanced for the delay was a statement made by the appellant in his supporting affidavit that it was due to circumstances beyond his control as he “did not have counsel, nor the means to obtain one”.
After various adjournments the application was heard by the Court of Appeal (Sir Michael Barnett P, Jones and Evans JJA) on 3 and 8 September 2020 in a hearing which took over 5 hours. On 24 September 2020 the Court of Appeal gave judgment refusing the appellant an extension of time.
On 6 January 2021 the Court of Appeal granted the appellant conditional leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council against the decision to refuse an extension of time on the ground that the judgment of the Court of Appeal is potentially inconsistent with the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal in Williams. Final leave to appeal was granted on 31 May 2021.