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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Caribbean justice fails British test
Prime Minister Percival James Patterson
Patterson wants the death penalty in Jamaica
The UK's Privy Council has ruled that six convicted murderers on death row in Jamaica should have their sentences commuted to life.

The council, which sits in London, ruled 4-1 against the death penalty for the men.

The judges said the men had been treated in a cruel and inhuman manner because they had been denied clemency since their sentences were handed down five years ago.

Jamaican Attorney-General A J Nicholson said the British ruling had "serious constitutional implications" for Jamaica.

Justice Nicholson said they were studying the implications of the ruling by the Privy Council, which serves as the highest court for former British colonies in the Caribbean.

Violent crime

The council also said Jamaica had "violated the rules of natural justice" because it offered only six months for death row prisoners to appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The council also said inmates should be permitted legal representation during appeals for mercy heard by the Privy Council in Jamaica.

Jamaican Prime Minister P J Patterson has promised that he will resume hangings soon to counter the rising wave of violent crime.

He is expected to remark on the ruling early next week.

Correspondents say the courts decision has fuelled the momentum for Caribbean countries to set up their own regional court to rule on such controversial issues as capital punishment.

Jamaica and other Caribbean countries argue that the death penalty is needed to deal with persistent violent crime.

The last execution in Jamaica was in 1988.

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08 Jun 99 | Americas
Trinidad hangings completed
20 Jul 98 | Americas
St Kitts executes convict
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