Convicted murderer allowed to appeal directly appeal to CCJ

Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim has won a monumental victory over the Barbados Court of Appeal that gives him the green light to take an outstanding matter directly to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for resolution.

In a landmark ruling, the CCJ gave Pilgrim the authority to “leapfrog” the local Court of Appeal and have a matter heard before the regional judicial tribunal.

The decision of the final appellate court was reportedly made due to the inordinate length of time it was taking the Court of Appeal to rule in the case of Omar Dacosta Holder.

Holder had been found guilty of the triple murders of 20-year-old Sakina Walrond, her three-year-old son Shaqkem Gittens and two-month old daughter Sha-Mya Mapp on March 31, 2005 and was sentenced to death by Justice Margaret Reifer in 2010. However, Pilgrim appealed the sentence before the Court of Appeal in 2013, but has been unable to get a judgment since then.

In an interview, Pilgrim said after listening to the case management of Omar Holder vs the Queen on Monday, the CCJ made a determination that the Court of Appeal, headed by president Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and comprising Madam Justice Sandra Mason and Justice Andrew Burgess, by failing to make a decision had effectively rendered a decision.

Pilgrim said the Trinidad-based CCJ treated the absence of a decision as if the Court of Appeal had affirmed the conviction and sentence.

He said the CCJ granted the appellant leave to appeal and file grounds.

The surprising ruling has come exactly two weeks after the outspoken attorney-at-law publicly criticized the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal for the tardiness in handing down judgments.

What had made the situation more complex was the fact that Madam Justice Mason, now Dame Sandra Mason, was elevated to the post of Governor General, and Burgess is a member of the CCJ, which precludes either from issuing a judgment on the matter.