Brick Court Chambers

News & Events

‘One of the super-sets’, Brick Court Chambers is ‘an all-round strong’ set with ‘a large selection of high-quality competition law specialists’, ‘top commercial counsel’, ‘an excellent chambers for banking litigation’, and a ‘go-to’ set for public administrative law.
The Legal 500 2020
The clerks’ room ‘sets the benchmark’ for other sets with its ‘friendly, knowledgeable, and hardworking’ clerks.
The Legal 500 2020
"An outstanding commercial set with a track record of excellence across its core areas of work."
Chambers & Partners 2018
"A set that is singled out for its "first-rate" clerking and "client service-oriented, commercial approach."

Privy Council quashes a conviction for armed robbery in the Bahamas based on a confession allegedly obtained by police oppression


The Privy Council has today quashed the conviction of Mr Vinson Ariste for armed robbery on the ground that the confession on which the conviction was based should never have been admitted into evidence and rendered the conviction unsafe.

In 2010, Mr Ariste (who was 20 years old at the time) was taken into police custody in the Bahamas and allegedly confessed to seven unrelated offences. There was no other evidence incriminating Mr Ariste in relation to any of the offences. His consistent case was that the confessions were obtained by beatings and inhuman treatment at the hands of the police. That account was corroborated by independent evidence: when he arrived in police custody, the detention record stated that he appeared well; when he left police custody, the prison doctor (to whom he reported that he had been beaten by police) recorded a number of injuries consistent with that account.

Notwithstanding, in 2012, the Appellant was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for armed robbery on the basis of one of those confessions. Following a voir dire, the trial judge had determined that the confession was admissible, but gave no reasons. The Appellant was not legally represented, either during his time in police detention or at trial.  An appeal to the Bahamas Court of Appeal was unsuccessful. 

A further appeal to the Privy Council has now succeeded. The Board considered that the trial judge’s decision to allow the confession into evidence was a very serious error in circumstances where: the judge had failed to give reasons for his decision to admit the confession; the Appellant was not legally represented at the police station; the detention record did not record any injuries on his arrival at the police station; and, most importantly, there was an inherent improbability that the Appellant would voluntarily confess without a lawyer to at least 7 offences for which there was no independent evidence. This was sufficient to conclude there had been a miscarriage of justice.  In addition, the Board considered that the following factors supported the conclusion that the conviction was unsafe: (i) the evidence of the prison doctor at trial that the injuries may have occurred during the period in police custody; (ii) the Appellant’s lack of legal representation at trial; (iii) the trial judge’s failure to give a good character direction where the Appellant had no previous convictions; and (iv) a subsequent decision by a different court that a confession from that same period in detention was inadmissible because the prosecution could not show that it was not obtained by oppression. 

The Board concluded by expressing its deep concern about what has happened in this case. In the words of Lords Kitchin and Burrows giving the judgment of the Board (see para 37 of the judgment):

“A young man has been languishing in prison for over 12 years on the basis of a confession that should never have been admitted in evidence against him.”

The judgment is here

Paul Bowen KC, Emma Mockford and Jagoda Klimowicz acted pro bono on behalf of the Appellant, instructed by Simons Muirhead Burton / the Death Penalty Project.