Samuel Robie (Appellant) v The Queen (Respondent)

From the Court of Appeal of Jamaica


After a trial before McIntosh J and a jury in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston, the appellant, Samuel Robie, was convicted of the murder of Roy Bailey. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour. He applied for leave to appeal against his conviction to the Court of Appeal in Jamaica which dismissed his application for leave to appeal against conviction but substituted a sentence of life imprisonment with the stipulation that he was not eligible for parole for 15 years.

The safety of the appellant’s conviction was challenged on three grounds: (1) that the judge did not direct the jury that he was a man of good character; (2) that she failed to give the jury an adequate direction on the evidence of identification; and (3) that she prevented defence counsel from challenging the credibility of the principal witness for the prosecution, namely Mr Anthony Simms, and made unfairly prejudicial remarks in the course of her summing up.

 Appellant argued that at the time of the trial the appellant was 30 years of age, had no previous convictions and was a man of good character. The judge was not however told that that was the case. She did not discover that he had no previous convictions until evidence was given by Corporal Blair after he had been convicted. As no evidence was given to that effect during the trial, the judge did not give a good character direction. The Board concluded that a good character direction should have been given.

The principal basis of the defence advanced on behalf of the appellant at the trial was, not that Mr Simms was mistaken in his identification or recognition of the appellant, but that he was lying about it. Counsel wished to assert that Mr Simms was a professional witness, that he had given a statement before in another case and had retracted it, that he had sought on other occasions to give evidence about matters that he had not witnessed and that he had not been present at the scene and was lying when he said that he had. Counsel also wished to cross-examine Mr Simms on various inconsistencies in his accounts. He further wanted to elicit from Mr Simms that on the day of the murder there had been an incident between the deceased and a man named Shoey involving a machete. Finally he wanted to call the appellant to deny knowledge of the murder and establish his alibi. Two main criticisms of the judge were advanced under ground (3). The first was that the judge prevented counsel from cross-examining Mr Simms as to his credibility and the second is what may be called the Shoey point. After discussing the facts in detail the Board accepted the submission made on behalf of the respondent that the position remained as it was in the Court of Appeal, namely that no material has been produced to support the suggestions. The judge was entitled to approach the matter as she did and so was the Court of Appeal. The Board did not find any basis for any valid criticism of the judge with regard to Shoey. As to more general complaints about the judge’s approach to the cross-examination of Mr Simms, the Board accepted the submission made on behalf of the respondent that the judge was right to stop potentially irrelevant matters being put to him. In short, the defence was given every reasonable latitude in cross-examination of Mr Simms.

Thus the complaints that the judge acted unfairly, either in the course of the trial or in anything she said in the course of the summing up, were not accepted. The appeal against conviction was dismissed.