Governor-General pardons three; Bertil Fox, Kemba Swanston and Patrice Matthew

by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The day before the General Elections in St. Kitts and Nevis, Governor-General Sir Samuel Weymouth Tapley Seaton pardoned three inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison who were all convicted of murder.

The three men were Kemba Swanston, Bertil Fox and Patrice Matthew.

WINN understands through discussion with the office of the Governor General that the process had been in the works for some time and was determined by the constitutional mandate of the Prerogative of Mercy Committee, which is the body that decides on pardons.

What is the “Prerogative of mercy”?

In Chapter V of the Constitution; The Executive, section 66 Prerogative of mercy, The Governor-General may (a) grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions, to any person convicted of any criminal offence under the law.

The powers of the Governor-General under section 66 subsection two are exercised by him or her under the advice of an appointed Minister designated by the Governor-General, acting under the guidance of the Prime Minister.

Before the change in government, that Minister was the former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Eugene Hamilton.

Under section 67 it outlines that there shall be a Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, and it shall consist of: (a) the Minister for the time being designated under section 66(2), who shall be chairperson; (b) the Attorney-General; and  (c) not less than three nor more than four other members appointed by the Governor-General.

The Committee also regulates its procedures.

The function of the committee outlined in section 68 suggests that any person that has been sentenced to death (otherwise than by a court-martial) for a criminal offence under any law, the Minister for the time being designated under section 66(2), shall cause a written report of the case from the trial judge (or the Chief Justice, if a report from the trial judge cannot be obtained) together with other information derived from the record of the case or elsewhere will into consideration at a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy.

After obtaining the advice of the Committee, the Minister shall decide whether to advise the Governor-General to exercise any of his powers under section 66(1).

Who are the inmates that received pardons?

On October 10, 2006, Kemba  Swanston was convicted for the murder of  Dennis Trotman and the attempted murder of  Davin Henry during an incident which occurred in Keys Village, St. Kitts, on June 2, 2003.

The incident involved five young men who hijacked a passenger bus, killed one of the passengers, and seriously wound another passenger.

According to reports, the men were allegedly armed with cutlasses, broken bottles and stones.

Four of the men, Kurt Mills, Leon Norford, Antwan Thompson, and Kenneth Mills, pled guilty to murder and attempted murder.

Swanston said he was not guilty of the crimes.

According to court documents, “the prosecution’s case is that Swanston and the other four co-defendants attacked the deceased Dennis Trotman and his brother, Davin Henry, while they were trapped inside a bus that stopped momentarily in Keys Village.

The driver and all the passengers on the bus, apart from the deceased and his brother, came out of the bus.  Swanston and the four co-defendants attacked the two trapped in the bus with stones, knives, machetes and other weapons, fatally wounding Dennis and seriously wounding  Davin.

On December 5, 2006, Swanston was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder and ten years imprisonment for the attempted murder. He appealed that the judge gave erroneous directions on the issue of joint enterprise and that he was prejudiced due to the conviction.

The appeal was dismissed, and the original conviction for murder and the sentencing was held.

Evanson ‘Blee’ Mitchum, Vincent Fahie and Patrice Matthew were convicted for the murder of Vernal Nisbett on June 10, 2002.

The murder occurred on February 3, 2001, and the three men were sentenced two weeks later.

On February 3, 2001, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Vernal Nisbett was shot after assisting Arlene Fleming, who was approached by three men at her barbeque stand off the intersection of Westbourne Ghaut and Cayon Street. Mitchum was armed with a gun and fired the shot that ended Nisbett’s life.

According to reports, Matthews was the individual who provided the firearm.

Mitchum was sentenced to death as prescribed by law and appealed, while Fahie and Matthew were sentenced to life imprisonment.

At the time of the incident, Matthew was a member of the Coast Guard.

WINN understands that Vincent Fahie has already been pardoned, and now Patrice Matthew joins him as a free man.

Bertil Fox was the third man pardoned by the Governor-General the day before the General Elections.

Fox was a “Golden Era Bodybuilder, who competed through the sixties until the late 1990s and on the Olympia stage before he was convicted of murder on May 22, 1998, after serving 25 years in prison.

On September 30, 1997, 20-year-old Leyoca Browne and her mother, 36-year-old Violet Browne, were fatally shot with a gun owned by Bertil Fox, who was 46 at the time. Fox was at the crime scene when the shootings occurred and was arrested and charged with the murders.

The first of Fox’s trials ended in a hung jury, split five to four for acquittal.

Fox was retried, convicted and sentenced to death. British human rights lawyers appealed, and Fox’s death sentence was ruled unconstitutional and resentenced to life in prison.

According to international reports, Bertil Fox’s son, Shaun Fox, revealed via FaceBook on August 8 that his father had been released from prison and was back in the United Kingdom.

Rodney Browne, the brother of Leyoca Browne and son of Violet Browne, wrote an emotional Facebook Post entitled “The Pain We Sow” and shared that he was “not quite sure of the mix of emotions” I felt when I read the pardon, “insult”, “disrespect”, “disregard”, “disbelief” were there for sure, “rage” was bubbling, but I was able to put a lid of numbness part way on the pot. Process, determine, and move on.”

The reasons for the pardons would remain unknown until there is a replacement for the chair of the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy from the new administration.

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