Desmond Baptiste v The State

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Hobhouse of Woodborough
Judgment Date08 June 2000
Judgment citation (vLex)[2000] UKPC J0608-1
Docket NumberAppeal No. 27 of 1999
CourtPrivy Council
Date08 June 2000

[2000] UKPC J0608-1

Privy Council

Present at the hearing:-

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead

Lord Steyn

Lord Hoffmann

Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough

Lord Millett

Appeal No. 27 of 1999
Desmond Baptiste
The State

[Delivered by Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough]


This is an appeal brought with the special leave of their Lordships from the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago dismissing the appeal of Desmond Baptiste from his conviction of the capital murder of Cyril Doyle after a trial before Volney J. and a jury between 24th and 31st January 1996.


The murder was alleged to have been committed in the middle of the day on 30th November 1988. A group of about 25 people were on open ground at Tillbury Place, Port of Spain, Trinidad, playing the illegal gambling game known as "whe whe". The stakes were being held by a man called Blacks. Two men approached the group. Both were black and one a bit taller than the other. The taller one produced a gun and threatened the group, making clear that it was a hold-up and he wished to rob them of their money. The group scattered. The two men chased Blacks who was running off accompanied by Steve Gill and Cyril Doyle. A witness Wendell Yearwood, who ran in the same direction, saw the taller man firing shots at the fleeing Blacks and the two others. He saw both Doyle and Gill hit and Doyle fall to the ground. Yearwood and another witness Emmanuel Lett spoke of other shots being fired by the taller man and both said that they had been wounded. Although the whole incident only lasted a very short time, quite a number of shots must have been fired. There was no evidence that any person other than the taller man had a gun.


That a robbery or attempted robbery took place involving two men and that in the course of the robbery Cyril Doyle was killed was not in dispute. It was not alleged that Baptiste was the taller man. The prosecution case was that Baptiste was the smaller man. The primary defence of Baptiste was that it was a case of mistaken identity and that he was elsewhere on 30th November. The prosecution adduced evidence of confessions which they said he had made admitting to being involved in the robbery but not in the murder. There was therefore an issue whether Baptiste had participated in the murder.


The trial in January 1996 was the third trial. The indictment had charged Baptiste together with a man called Rudolf McDonald who, the prosecution alleged, was the gunman (the taller man). The first trial in January 1993 had to be aborted. At the second in November 1994, the jury convicted McDonald but was unable to agree a verdict on Baptiste.


At the third trial, the prosecution called Yearwood and Lett. About 2 months after the killing, Lett had identified Baptiste on an identification parade as being the smaller of the two men. The reliability of his identification was questioned. He did not know Baptiste and the circumstances in which he saw the robbers were not good. His description was superficial. Also, there was contradictory evidence regarding the fairness of the parade. No identification evidence was led from Yearwood. The prosecution had to rely strongly upon the signed confession.


Baptiste was arrested on 24th January 1989. He was taken to the police station where he was held, questioned and later signed a written confession. Baptiste was 19 at the time and had difficulty with reading and writing. The statement was objected to on the ground that it was not his statement and he had signed it only because the police officer promised him that he would be released if he did. There was a voir dire and the police and Baptiste gave evidence. The judge preferred the evidence of the police and admitted the confession. The police evidence confirmed that Baptiste had been cautioned but not that he had at any time been advised of his right, confirmed by the constitution, to speak to a lawyer and have one present while he was being questioned. ( Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago v. Whiteman [1991] 2 A.C. 240; Mohammed v. The State [1999] 2 A.C. 111). This ground of objection was however not raised at the trial, nor in the Court of Appeal.


But there was another and more fundamental feature of the trial. The trial was conducted on the basis of the felony-murder rule and the judge in his summing-up directed the jury that they could convict Baptiste of murder provided they were satisfied that Baptiste was the confederate of McDonald in the robbery and that Doyle was killed in the course of the robbery, regardless of whether or not Baptiste foresaw grievous bodily harm or death as a possible incident of the robbery. In his confession Baptiste had admitted that he took part in the robbery. On this basis he effectively had no defence to the charge applying the felony-murder...

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4 cases
  • The Queen v Shonovia Thomas
    • British Virgin Islands
    • High Court (British Virgin Islands)
    • 14 July 2010
    ...Chief Justice in Desmond Baptiste v The Queen 27 and later adopted in Kenneth Samuel. Barrow JA reproducing what Sir Dennis said in Desmond Baptiste said: ‘Retribution ‘Retribution at first glance tends to reflect the Old Testament biblical concept of an eye for an eye, which is no longer t......
  • Murray v R
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal (Jamaica)
    • 8 April 2002
    ...attention was drawn by Crown Counsel, is the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Langton (Kervin) v. The State (2000) 56 W.I.R. 497. The headnote to that case reads: “The appellant, a man of unblemished character had been seen entering the deceased's house with the de......
  • The Queen v William Alexander Penn
    • British Virgin Islands
    • High Court (British Virgin Islands)
    • 21 March 2006
    ... ... One of the cases in which such advice was given is the case ofDesmond Baptiste v The Queen1. Mr. Baptiste, aged 25 years was sentenced to eight years for burglary. He had a long ... ...
  • R v Flood and Others
    • Bermuda
    • Supreme Court (Bermuda)
    • 19 January 2005
    ...General v WhitemanUNK (1990) 39 WIR 397 Chase v RUNK (1997) 55 WIR 53 Mohammed v The StateUNK (1998) 53 WIR 444 Baptiste v The StateUNK (2000) 56 WIR 497 Ibrahim v RELR [1914] AC 509 R v FullingELR [1987] QB 426 R v PriestleyUNK (1965) 51 Cr App R 1 Wallersteiner v MoirUNK [1974] 3 All ER 2......

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