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1 Oxford U. Commw. L.J. 171 (2001)
International Legal Trends and the Mandatory Death Penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean

handle is hein.journals/oxuclwj1 and id is 171 raw text is: Oxford University Commonwealth Lar journal

Until the landmark decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in Hiughes
and Spence v The Qneen, the conventional wisdom was that the mandatory imposi-
tion of the death penalty could not be challenged in Commonwealth Caribbean
countries as unconstitutional and that, in any event, the savings clauses contained
in the constitutions would prevent any such challenge.
Savings clauses operate in all jurisdictions of the Commonwealth Caribbean,
except Belize, to preserv7e the colonial status quo from constitutional challenge.
Either they rule out altogether any constitutional attack on the laws in existence at
the time of independence, or they at least prohibit any attack on the specific colo-
nial penalties or punishments in existence at the time of independence based on
the alleged cruelty or inhumanity of those punishments.
The most significant effect of the decision in Hughes and Spence is that it has shown
the way for a restrictixe interpretation of at least some types of saxings clauses. By
doing so, it has liberated the courts to adopt a more dynamic and evolutionary
approach to constitutional interpretation.
As a consequence, the constitutional courts in the Commonwealth Caribbean
are now being asked to consider a number of specific issues in relation to the
mandatory death penalty: first, whether it is constitutional; and second, whether
any challenges to the mandatory death penalty are barred by the savings clauses,
found to a xvarying degree, within each Caribbean constitution. In each case, the
consideration of, and implications for, global and regional developments are
highly significant.
eA vesion ofithis artidcl was lirst presented at the ConId rencc on Inicirna(,nal Law and the Abolition
of the Death Penalty (Galway, 21 22 September 2001), organised by the Irish Centre for Human
RZights, National Univcrsity oIi 'cland and the Centre do Recherche sur les Droits do l'Honne,
Universite Pantheon-Assas Paris 11.
L1,13 (Hons), LiM, IBE; Director, Commonwealth Caribbean Dcath Penalty Project, Simnons
Muirhead & Burton and Penal Reform International. The project is co-funde by the European
Commission and Simons Muirhcad & Burton.
Lastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, 2 April 2(0(01, [21. The Court of Appeal hemt that the manda-
toi) imposition io'thc dcalh penalty on all those convicted of ntirder irirespective o the indi\idtial
mitigation was unconstitutional in St Lucia and St Vincent respectively.


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