A man has had his armed robbery conviction and sentence quashed by the Privy Council after expressing “deep concern” that he had been “languishing in prison” for over 12 years on the basis of a confession that should never have been admitted in evidence against him.
In a judgement handed down yesterday, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council allowed the appeal of Vinson Ariste and quashed his conviction and sentence of 15 years imprisonment. The appeal centered on a “confession” relied on at trial, which was forced from Ariste at a police station.
On July 21 2010, Ariste was arrested at his home on suspicion of armed robbery. The victim Andrea Donaldson was robbed at gunpoint by a number of men. Ariste, who was aged 20 at the time, was arrested by the police at his home on 21 July 2010. Across six days in police detention, he was beaten and denied legal representation by police.
During this ordeal, Ariste was said to have been forced to “confess” to a number of offenses, including a separate armed robbery, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and murder. In total, he was made to confess to at least seven other crimes that he did not commit. All questioning took place without the presence of a lawyer.
At his trial, Ariste claimed to have been beaten by the police with a cutlass and baseball bat and also being suffocated with a bag and water, a practice known as ‘fish bagging’, during his police interrogation.
The Privy Council determined that the trial judge made an incorrect decision on a question of law or fact in admitting the confession after the voir dire.