By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A double rapist is seeking to have the Privy Council overturn a lower court's decision to dismiss his appeal of one of his sentences without it hearing the matter.
Melvin Saunders has petitioned the London-based tribunal in a bid to prove the appellate court's error in dismissing his appeal without holding an "oral hearing".
In 1996, Saunders was sentenced to 14 years and 12 lashes for raping a woman. That came a year after he was sentenced to 25 years for raping another woman.
Saunders subsequently twice petitioned the Court of Appeal with regards to the 14-year sentence, once in 1997 and the other roughly two decades later.
In the second appeal Saunders' assertion was that his remand time of 22 months was not taken into account either when he was sentenced or when he appealed to the appellate court in 1997.
However, the appellate judges unanimously dismissed his appeal, asserting they were not satisfied Saunders had "made out a case for us to interfere with the sentence imposed some 20 years ago".
The appellate judges said had that point been raised before the Court of Appeal in 1997, the court would have dealt with it. However, they said "in the absence of anything to the contrary", the conclusion must have been "that it was not raised".
According to a summary of the facts contained on the Privy Council's official website, Saunders' recent appeal was dismissed "without an oral hearing". He is thus challenging the Court of Appeal's decision on that basis, as well as on the grounds that the trial was "vitiated" by a procedural error at the committal stage.
In particular, Saunders claims that his committal for trial was defective because the procedure for taking witness depositions did not comply with the then-applicable provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Saunders further alleges various other defects in the trial process, such as a failure to provide samples of DNA evidence to the defence. He also claims the trial judge failed to invite submissions from his attorney during trial before proceeding to sentence him.
Lastly, he contends that it was not made "sufficiently clear" from what point his sentence should run, given that he was serving multiple other sentences concurrently at the time.
Saunders' matter comes on for hearing on the 27th of this month.
In 2014, Saunders appeared before then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, now an appellate judge, on a constitutional motion founded on claims that he was being held in prison for longer that he lawfully should.
At the time, Saunders argued that the second sentence was improper based on the Court of Appeal's decision in the Andrew Bridgewater case regarding punishment for first time and second and/or subsequent rape offences. In that case, seven years was ruled for the first offence and 14 years for the second and/or subsequent rape.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour argued that, based on the law at the time and the ruling of the Court of Appeal, her client should have only been given 14 years imprisonment and that he ought to receive damages for the number of years that he was held unconstitutionally.
The lawyer did admit, when asked, that the flogging aspect of his punishment had not been carried out. Nonetheless, Mrs Farquharson-Seymour concluded that her client had been agitating for his release for some time and was asking for the court to hear his motion "because a day in Fox Hill is quite hard."