Robinson treated unfairly by parole board

  • Puisne Judge Shade Subair

    Puisne Judge Shade Subair

A man who spent three years behind bars could soon be released after the Supreme Court ruled he was treated unfairly by the parole board.

The parole board recalled Dennis Robinson to prison in November 2016 after he was arrested on drug charges, but he was never convicted.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair said in a November 19 judgment that the board had not given Robinson a fair hearing and failed to hold annual review hearings about his eligibility for release.

She ordered that the parole board convene a hearing to review Robinson’s eligibility for release by December 3.

Mrs Justice Subair said: “While I accept on the facts that the plaintiff appeared before the parole board on November 21, 2016, on the subject of his recall, I find that the parole board fell short of offering a fair hearing.”

Mark Pettingill, Robinson’s lawyer, said yesterday: “I have had grave concerns about the process here and the way he has been dealt with, so much so that we had to go to court to get the situation remedied.

“The courts, now for a second time, have ruled in his favour. Obviously, we are hopeful that he will be released soon.

“In his situation, we take the view that the process throughout has been pretty unfair. The court was pretty condemning of the actions of the parole board and the way in which he was treated.” Mr Pettingill added: “Fairness is clearly key, and a person is entitled to be given reasons for why they are being detained and entitled to have a fair hearing.”

Robinson was sentenced to life for the 2005 murder of 20-year-old twins Jahmal and Jahmil Cooper and ordered to spend at least 12 years behind bars.

The pair were beaten to death by Kenneth Burgess while Robinson guarded the door and he later helped to dispose of the bodies.

Robinson was released on licence by the parole board in the autumn of 2016 — but he was arrested on November 15 that year for intent to supply 418.7 grams of cannabis.

He said in an affidavit that on November 21, 2016, less than a week after his arrest, he was taken from Westgate to a meeting of the parole board.

Robinson said: “I was told at that meeting that I would be recalled. I asked for reasons and at first I was not provided with any reasons.

“I was later told that it was because I had been charged with a criminal offence which was not accurate — I was not charged until January 6, 2017.”

Robinson said he was not given an opportunity to speak or have a lawyer present during the hearing and, in a legal action against the Parole Board, argued the board had not given Robinson a fair hearing when he was recalled.

He also argued the board had not reviewed his eligibility for release since he was recalled.

The complaint went before the Supreme Court on October 16.

Juliana Swan, administrative assistant for the Parole Board, said in an affidavit that Robinson was able to address the board at his hearing.

She said: “He advised that he was surprised that he was breached as he had done nothing wrong.”

Elliott Pitcher Jr, Robinson’s case manager, said in an affidavit that when inmates want to apply for parole they need to complete a “parole package” which includes where they would stay and work if released.

He said Robinson repeatedly delayed the completion of his parole package and had still not submitted one as of the writing of his affidavit.

But Mrs Justice Subair found that the Parole Board should have reviewed Robinson’s eligibility for release every 12 months.

She said: “This is the case whether or not the administrative application form process has been completed by the plaintiff.

“Of course, a failure to supply adequate information to the board may in some cases obstruct the board’s clear view of the merits of an application for release on licence.”

The judge added: “In practical terms, I think it only fair to add that the plaintiff, to some extent, was also the author of his own delay.

“In the end, nothing turns on this because the plaintiff’s molasses pace did not disentitle him to review hearings at 12-month intervals.”

Robinson made headlines in September when the Supreme Court ruled that his right to a fair trial in a reasonable time had been breached after his drug trial was delayed for more than two years while he remained in custody.

A trial started in 2018, but the magistrate recused himself over a conflict of interest before judgment was made.

Assistant Justice Delroy Duncan in September ordered that Robinson’s retrial be stayed, which had the effect of ending the case.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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