High Court to resentence 9 who killed Thackoor Boodram

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NOT ME: Michael ‘Rat’ Maharaj, who insists he did not murder Thackoor Boodram.

NINE men convicted of the brutal beheading of pig farmer Thackoor Boodram, brother of drug kingpin Dole Chadee, in 2017, will be resentenced by the High Court.

This week, the Privy Council allowed their appeals against their life sentences and quashed them.

While they were initially sentenced to death by hanging, the sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

The nine – Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien “Tommy” Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath “Farmer” Ramiah, Daniel “Fella” Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, and Mark “Bico” Jaikaran – will now return to the High Court for a judge to consider what sentence they should receive in place of a life sentence.

Lords Briggs, Leggatt, Burrows, Stephens and Lloyd-Jones further ordered that their resentencing take place “expeditiously,” and advised the High Court to consider the case of each man individually, taking into account the full range of sentences available.

In October 2021, the Privy Council dismissed the men’s appeal of their conviction when they petitioned the Court of Appeal to reopen their case because of “new evidence” that had emerged after they were found guilty of Boodram’s murder.

That evidence was based on an alleged admission by the State’s star witness, Junior Grandison, who swore in a statutory declaration in 2011 that he had fabricated evidence against the group.

Grandison’s evidence did not implicate a tenth man, Junior “Heads” Phillips, who was also convicted on the basis of evidence of another witness. The London-based court agreed that Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine (retired) and Prakash Moosai carried out a proper and robust analysis of the appeal before dismissing it in 2018.

While their appeal was against both conviction and sentence, the latter part was adjourned, since it would be dependent on the findings of a death-penalty case involving another of Chadee’s brothers, Naresh Boodram.

That appeal to the Privy Council was taken there by the Attorney General in a constitutional claim which asked the Law Lords if a court could substitute a sentence other than life when the death sentence is commuted.

In May 2022, the Privy Council confirmed that prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago who can no longer be executed because of long delays on death row are not limited to sentences of life imprisonment.

Boodram was convicted of murder on November 27, 1996, and sentenced to death for murdering Anthony “Tooks” Greenidge and Stephen “Bulls” Sandy in 1992.

In 2007, he filed to have his death sentence quashed and to be re-sentenced by the High Court. His sentence was commuted to life on the basis that the court did not have the discretion to re-sentence him. Boodram appealed and the Court of Appeal held that the High Court was not constrained to impose a sentence of life imprisonment and can re-sentence with clearly defined prison terms. It sent the case back to the High Court to consider an appropriate sentence.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling benefited some 82 death row inmates at the time. The court held sentencing judges had a full range of sentencing powers available to them and the discretion to impose prison terms other than life. However, the AG argued that the only appropriate sentence, after it became unlawful to carry out the death penalty, was to commute the sentence to one of life, as the next most serious penalty to reflect the gravity of the offence. Although the State accepted crimes of murder covered a wide range of circumstances, its argument was that all murders must be treated as equally grave.

Thackoor Boodram was kidnapped from his home in south Trinidad on December 20, 1997. His abductors demanded a ransom, but ten days later his head was found in a whisky box at the Caroni Cremation Site.

Maharaj and the others were represented at the Privy Council by Edward Fitzgerald, KC, Amanda Clift-Matthews, Jagdeo Singh, Karina Singh and Suneesh Singh. Tom Poole, KC, and Hannah Fry represented the State.