Hinds and other v The Queen; Director of Public Prosecutions v Jackson, attorney General of Jamaica (Intervenor): PC 1 Dec 1975

The Gun Court Act 1974 of Jamaica established special courts at different levels to deal with varieties of crimes involving guns. There was provision for hearings to be held in camera. Certain offences carried mandatory life sentences reviewable only by a panel appointed by the Governor-General. The appellants each appealed convictions by the courts complaining that Magistrates had had assigned to them cases properly only triable by High Court judges, that the system infringed the duty to provide an open system of trial, and that the review panels included non-judiciary exercising judicial duties, infringing the doctrine of separation of powers.
Held: Though the courts themselves were validly constituted, certain powers which under the Constitution were reserved to High Court judges had been wrongly assigned to magistrates. The provisions allowing hearings in camera were valid, since there was sufficient reason in the need for public safety to support them. The review panel effectively set terms of imprisonment, a function which was assigned under the Constitution to the judiciary. The creation of the panel was an attempt by the executive to exercise the duties of the judiciary, and was unconstitutional. Diplock L: ‘In the field of punishment for criminal offences, the application of the basic principle of separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers that is implicit in a constitution on the Westminster model makes it necessary to consider how the power to determine the length and the character of a sentence which imposes restrictions on the personal liberty of the offender is distributed under these three heads of power. … In the exercise of its legislative power, Parliament may, if it thinks fit, prescribe a fixed punishment to be inflicted upon all offenders found guilty of the defined offence – as, for example, capital punishment for the crime of murder. Or it may prescribe a range of punishments … What Parliament cannot do, consistently with the separation of powers, is to transfer from the judiciary to any executive body whose members are not appointed under Chapter VII of the Constitution, a discretion to determine the severity of the punishment to be inflicted upon an individual member of a class of offenders.’ Elements of the statute providing for mandatory life sentences to be imposed by lower courts were void, but the provisions were severable, and the remainder were valid for superior courts. In each case the convictions stood, but the cases were remitted to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica for re-sentence. ‘[constitutions] differ fundamentally in their nature from ordinary legislation . . . They embody what is in substance an agreement reached between representatives of the various shades of political opinion in the state as to the structure of the organs of government through which the plenitude of the sovereign power of the state is to be exercised.’ The Constitution established a regime which provided, in respect of the higher Jamaican judiciary ‘that their independence from political pressure by Parliament or by the executive in the exercise of their judicial functions shall be assured by granting to them such degree of security of tenure in their office as is justified by the importance of the jurisdiction that they exercise.’ This independence was assured by the provisions enacting that ‘They can only be removed from office upon the advice of the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council in the United Kingdom given on a reference made upon the recommendation of a tribunal of inquiry consisting of persons who hold or have held high judicial office in some part of the Commonwealth.’

Diplock L, Dilhorne Viscount (Dissenting), Simon of Glaisdale L, Edmund-Davies, Fraser of Tullybelton L (dissenting)
[1976] 1 All ER 1976, [1976] 2 WLR 366, (1975) 119 SJ 864, [1976] Crim LR 124, [1977] AC 195
(Jamaica) Gun Courts Act 1974
England and Wales
CitedAttorney General for Ontario v Attorney General for Canada PC 1924
A provincial legislature was said to have exceeded its powers and contravened the British North America Act.
Held: Any provision made by the constitution as to the security of status and tenure of the judiciary applies to all individual judges . .
CitedAttorney General v Antigua Times Ltd PC 1975
The Board should not seek to determine questions not directly raised in the appeal before it. . .
CitedLiyange v Regina PC 1966
The appellant, who had been involved in an attempted coup in Ceylon, sought to argue that a retroactive law relating to his trial was void.
Held: The argument succeeded. The separation of powers inherent in the Constitution had been infringed, . .
CitedLadore v Bennett PC 1939
Parliament cannot sidestep a restriction in the constitution by a colourable device. . .
CitedDeaton v Attorney General and Revenue Commissioners 1963
(Supreme Court of Ireland) The court looked at a law in which the choice of alternative penalties was left to the executive: ‘There is a clear distinction between the prescription of a fixed penalty and the selection of a penalty for a particular . .
CitedAttorney General for Alberta v Attorney General for Canada PC 1947
The Board considered the severability of statutory provisions viewed for constitutionality: ‘The real question is whether what remains is so inextricably bound up with the part declared invalid that what remains cannot independently survive or, as . .
CitedAttorney General of Australia v The Queen and the Boilermakers’ Society of Australia; Kirby v The Queen and Boilermakers’ Society of Australia PC 1957
When looking at a new court having a different name, the courts must ask the nature of the jurisdiction exercised, and test the method of appointment of judges for conformity with the constitution. It would be a travesty of the constitution if . .

Cited by:
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions of Jamaica v Mollison (No 2) PC 22-Jan-2003
(Jamaica ) The appellant had been convicted of murder as a youth. He was sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure. The actual length of time to be served was decided by the Governor-General. The decision by the Governor was clearly a . .
CitedBrowne v The Queen PC 6-May-1999
(St Christopher and Nevis) The appellant had been convicted of murder whilst still a youth. He had accordingly been sentenced to be detained ‘during [the Governor-General’s] pleasure; and if so sentenced he shall be liable to be detained in such . .
CitedReyes v The Queen PC 11-Mar-2002
(Belize) The Criminal Code of Belize provided that any murder by shooting was to be treated as Class A Murder, and be subject to the mandatory death penalty. The applicant having been convicted, appealed saying this was inhuman or degrading . .
CitedRegina v Carroll and Al-Hasan and Secretary of State for Home Department Admn 16-Feb-2001
The claimants challenged the instruction that they must squat whilst undergoing a strip search in prison. A dog search had given cause to supect the presence of explosives in the wing, and the officers understood that such explosives might be hidden . .
CitedIndependent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (1998) Ltd and others v Marshall-Burnett and Another PC 3-Feb-2005
(Jamaica) A bill was presented to the Jamaican parliament to transfer the appellate jurisdiction from the Board of the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Held: Whilst there was a duty to recognise and respect alternate courts, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Crime

Updated: 28 November 2021; Ref: scu.211405