Ramdeen v The State

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Sumption,Lord Toulson,Kerr,Lords Neuberger,Lord Mance,Lord Neuberger
Judgment Date27 March 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] UKPC 7
Date27 March 2014
Docket NumberAppeal No 0077 of 2012
CourtPrivy Council
The State

[2014] UKPC 7


Lord Neuberger

Lord Mance

Lord Kerr

Lord Sumption

Lord Toulson

Appeal No 0077 of 2012

Privy Council


Edward Fitzgerald QC

Ben Silverstone

(Instructed by Simons Muirhead and Burton)


Howard Stevens QC

(Instructed by Charles Russell LLP)

Heard on 23 January 2014

Lord Toulson (WITH WHOM Lords Neuberger AND Kerr AGREE):


On 29 July 2008 at the Port of Spain assizes Julia Ramdeen and David Abraham were convicted of the murder of Carlos Phillip and sentenced to death. On 26 February 2010 their appeals against conviction were dismissed by the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. They applied for permission to appeal to the Board. The Board granted the appellant permission to appeal against conviction on three grounds. Abraham's application was refused.


The prosecution's case against the appellant was based on two different accounts of the killing: an account alleged to have been given voluntarily by the appellant in answers to the police and in a confession statement taken before a magistrate; and an account given by a self-confessed accomplice Bruzual, who gave evidence for the prosecution under a promise of immunity. The two accounts were radically different but the prosecution sought to rely on both. This made the trial unusual and presented difficulties for the trial judge, Brook J.


The grounds of appeal are that the judge misdirected the jury on the approach which they were to take to the separate accounts, that he wrongly failed to leave provocation to the jury as a possible defence and that he wrongly failed to direct the jury that the appellant's good character went not merely to her propensity to act as the prosecution alleged but also to her credibility. At the trial neither defendant gave evidence. The appellant's case, put through cross-examination, was that her confession statement was a fabrication of the police officer, who persuaded her what she should say by wrongful inducements, and that she took no part in the killing of the deceased. She accepted that she was present at the time of the killing, which took place in the apartment where she lived with Abraham, but it was put to Bruzual that the people who carried out the killing were Bruzual and another man, not Abraham. Abraham's defence was a denial that he was present.


On Christmas day 2003 the body of the deceased was discovered in a pond. He was naked, his mouth was gagged and his hands and feet were bound. There were superficial injuries to the head and face but the cause of death was aspiration of blood and stomach contents as a result of stab wounds to the neck, which penetrated the trachea and oesophagus. Three days later the deceased's burnt out car was found at another location.


The deceased was last seen alive on 23 December. On that evening there were mobile phone calls between the deceased and the appellant, who ran a call-girl business. She was arrested on 23 January 2004 by Inspector Phillip and other officers. She was taken to Chaguanas Police Station, where she was interviewed. She allegedly confessed to killing the deceased and agreed to give Inspector Phillip a written statement. This was taken in the presence of a magistrate.


According to the appellant's statement under caution, she and the deceased arranged by phone that he would come to her home for a threesome. She met him in the street and escorted him to her home. He was not drunk but all of a sudden started to behave in a drunken way. She went to the washroom to relieve herself and when she came out he was naked, he was staggering, he held on to her and he made advances. She pushed him off and told him to wait for the other girl who was due to come. She received a telephone call, but as she was answering it he grabbed her by the throat and untied her dress. She pushed him away, picked up a brick by the door and hit him on the side of the head. She stated that things then got "kind ah physical". She was pushed against a plastic table and a coffee maker fell over. She got up and hit him repeatedly with the brick. He fell to the floor and was making a noise. She asked him to shut up but he did not. She continued:

"That is when I went inside the front bedroom in search of something to tie him. When I came back out he grabbed me by the second bedroom door and he slammed me on the wall. That is when ah hit him and he fell to the floor. Then I started tying him. I gagged him but he won't shut up. I then made a phone call to an acquaintance call Zai or Ziggy and that is when Ziggy told me that I have to kill Carlos Philip. He explained to me that I had to cut his jugular vein because if I don't kill him he would go to the police and have me arrested. So then I went to the kitchen and take out a knife. I begged him to stop making noise but he wouldn't. So I started cutting at his neck. I wasn't getting no penetration and I began to stab him in his neck on the right side…That was when blood started spraying. I took a bag and put it over his head and he started stifling and suffocating like he hacking blood. After a while he stopped moving. That was when ah wrap him in a white sheet. I sat with him until Zai came with one of his friends called Tallman."


On Zai's instructions she went to collect the deceased's car. Zai and Tallman put the deceased's body in the car and the appellant drove them to the place where the men disposed of the body. They then drove on to a remote spot where Zai left the appellant and Tallman in order to fetch some fuel. When he returned, the deceased's car was soaked and set alight. They were given a lift by a car back to Chaguanas, where they separated. The appellant went back home and set about cleaning up.


In response to further questions the appellant said that she used a negligee strap, a cordless phone cord and a blouse to tie the deceased up and two stockings to gag him. In fact the deceased was found to have been gagged differently. After the interview the appellant was taken to her home and according to the police she identified the phone from which she took a cord to tie the deceased.


Bruzual was arrested on 8 March 2004 and made a statement under caution on the same day. On 25 August 2004 he made a fuller statutory declaration and on the following day he was given immunity from prosecution, on condition that his statutory declaration was true and that he gave evidence in accordance with it.


Bruzual's account in evidence was that on 23 December 2003 he was at the appellant's apartment from about midday with Abraham, whom he had first met at the apartment a few days earlier. The appellant joined them shortly before 7.00pm. A plan was made to carry out a robbery using a rental car which was to be provided by a man called Bevan George, but George failed to turn up with it. A new plan was then made to lure the deceased to the flat and to steal his car key while the deceased was in the bedroom with the appellant. Arrangements were made between the appellant and the deceased by phone and she brought him to the apartment. Meanwhile, Bruzual and Abraham hid in a separate room, taking blocks with them for possible use to enable them to kidnap the deceased and take his car. After the deceased arrived the appellant knocked three times on the door where Bruzual and Abraham were hiding, in accordance with the agreed plan. When Abraham opened the door, the deceased was naked. Abraham hit him on the head with a block and then pulled out a knife with which he began to stab the deceased. The deceased begged for his life. The appellant said that she could not help him and joined in hitting him two or three times on the head with a block. Bruzual admitted that he too hit the deceased on the jaw with a block. Abraham then dragged the deceased into the room where he and Bruzual had hidden and closed the door. When Bruzual opened it, he saw Abraham sawing the deceased's throat with the knife which he had been using. The appellant produced a cord to tie up the deceased and Abraham dragged him back out. Abraham put a bag over the man's face while the appellant tied his hands and Bruzual tied his feet. He was then wrapped in a sheet. The appellant fetched the deceased's car and the deceased was placed in it. The appellant drove them to George's house where George took over the driving. The body was dumped and the car incinerated.

The judge's directions

At the close of the evidence the judge properly conducted an "Ensor" hearing to discuss with counsel the issues in the case and the directions he should give to the jury. The transcript suggests that the judge had a sharper perception of the problems than counsel. He rightly wished to be clear how the prosecution was putting its case against the appellant in view of the differences between her statement under caution and Bruzual's evidence, which were not just about matters of incidental detail but were fundamental. According to the appellant's statement, the killing was done by herself alone after the deceased had come to the apartment for a threesome and had begun to act prematurely in a rough and drunken manner, causing a fight which had ended in her knocking him down and tying him up. According to Bruzual's evidence the deceased had been lured to the apartment in order to steal his car key when he was in a compromising position. Abraham and Bruzual took the precaution of arming themselves with blocks, which showed that they anticipated possible violence, but Abraham went much further by attacking the deceased with a knife, whereupon Bruzual and the appellant helped him. The judge wanted to know what the prosecution was presenting to the jury as the true version. In answer to his direct question "what are you inviting...

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