High Court clears way for Selwyn Strachan — who was released from prison in Grenada in 2009 after Amnesty International slammed his “fatally flawed” trial — to become a solicitor.
The High Court has overruled a decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to prevent a man convicted of murder from doing the Legal Practice Course (LPC) after failing a “character and suitability test”.
Selwyn Strachan was sentenced to death by a court on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983 for his part in the killing of nine people, including the nation’s then prime minister, Maurice Bishop, who had seized power in a 1979 coup.
But his trial was widely condemned as flawed and a worldwide campaign sought his release. Amnesty International declared Selwyn a political prisoner, categorising his arrest as a miscarriage of justice.
After spending five years on death row, Strachan’s sentence was commuted to a whole-life term of imprisonment, from which he was eventually released in 2009. But his murder conviction stands as Grenada law doesn’t allow it to be appealed.
Since his release Strachan has been studying law in a quest to become a solicitor. However, when he attempted recently to enrol on the English LPC — a requirement for all wannabe Grenadian solicitors — his record led the SRA to refuse him admission.
Undeterred, Strachan took his case to the High Court. In overturning the SRA’s decision, Mr Justice Charles said that body had “erred in principle and acted unfairly”. In a case involving “exceptional circumstances”, he stated that the SRA’s main error had been “a failure to appreciate and take into account that the political background to the convictions and the manner in which they were obtained”.
The SRA had “lacked humanity having regard to the factual history put before them,” Justice Charles continued, adding:
“It seems that it was driven by a bureaucratic process and the view that one process was suitable for all types of case. I express the hope that the SRA review its process in the light if this case to cater for exceptional cases.”
Strachan isn’t intending to practise law in England and Wales, so it will be down to the authorities in Grenada to decide whether he can actually work as a solicitor.