By Latrishka Thomas
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has reassured the British government that Antigua and Barbuda will not pursue the death penalty for anyone found guilty of murdering Customs officer Nigel Christian.
And, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs EP Chet Greene, the government is still awaiting a response from the London-based police force, despite having previously indicated otherwise.
A few days ago, indications were that there would be no Scotland Yard involvement in the murder probe after the minister said the decision was “the preserve of the judiciary”.
He explained that at the time of speaking to the media he was not aware of the DPP’s (Anthony Armstrong’s) decision.
“When I spoke to the media three days ago it was not in my possession. One would have realised that I was in Barbados for the funeral and would have missed a couple of things, so putting the record straight my answer, though correct in terms of the position of the government, was dated in that by the time I spoke, the DPP would have already written his position,” he stated.
The UK – which has long been opposed to the use of the death penalty around the world – had expressed concerns over the twin island state still having the punishment on its statute books. Britain wanted reassurance that capital punishment would not be inflicted before it agreed to assist with the murder investigation of 44-year-old Christian.
In a letter shared with Observer yesterday, Armstrong responded to that request on August 24 saying that the authority is vested solely in him as the DPP to make such a determination.
“The authority to make decisions such as this and all criminal matters and proceedings is vested in the Director of Public Prosecutions and to the exclusion of all other persons by the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda,” Armstrong said in his missive.
He then explained what factors he had to consider in making his decision.
“I am guided by a number of factors including general principles of sentencing, sentencing guidelines, applicable laws, decided cases, information on the circumstances of the killing, murder cases of similar nature and, importantly, the test to be applied and satisfied in seeking the ultimate penalty,” Armstrong said.
“Having given much consideration and weight to the above, and applying the principle as stated by out highest court, the Privy Council, “the worst of the worst and the rarest of the rare,” my decision is as follows: in the event that a person (or persons) is (are) charged, prosecuted and convicted for the murder of the late Customs officer, Nigel Christian, the Director of Public Prosecutions will not at the start of such trial, during the trial or upon conviction seek the death penalty,” Armstrong concluded in the letter copied to the Attorney General and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Christian was allegedly kidnapped from his McKinnons home by four men on July 10. He was found some time later in a dirt road near New Winthorpes with bullet wounds to his upper body.