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Berthill Fox

  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • Death Penalty; Mandatory Death Penalty; Caribbean

On 22 May 1998, dual national of the UK and St Kitts and Nevis, Mr Berthill Fox was convicted in the High Court of St. Christopher and Nevis of the murders of his fiancé and her mother and was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty, the automatic punishment for murder in St. Kitts and Nevis. 

Mr. Fox’s Story

Prior to his conviction, Berthill Fox was a professional body builder and two-time Mr Universe winner. 

Mr Fox’s journey though the criminal justice system and St. Kitts and Nevis’ parole system has been lengthy – spanning over 20 years. Despite multiple unsuccessful appeals against his convictions for murder, The Death Penalty Project successfully assisted Mr Fox for over two decades, and on 5 August 2022 Mr Fox was released from prison.  

Mandatory death penalty ruled as unconstitutional  

In 1999 The Death Penalty Project began assisting Mr Fox and provided free legal representation to challenge his mandatory death sentence to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In March 2002, in a landmark judgment, The Privy Council allowed his appeal and ruled that his mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional. In September 2002 Mr Fox was resentenced in the High Court and given two life sentences.  

Re-sentencing  

In re-sentencing Mr Fox, the judge placed substantial weight on medical evidence from his psychiatric report. Instructed by The Death Penalty Project, UK based forensic psychiatrist Dr Diana Tamlyn completed an assessment which highlighted how Mr Fox’s prolonged use of anabolic steroids, from the age of 14, had diminished his responsibility. 

Dr. Tamlyn concluded that: “at the material time Berthill Fox was suffering from an abnormality of mind, due to prolonged steroid abuse, which caused a loss of control and thus substantially impaired his responsibility for the offences.” 

Prerogative of Mercy  

Working with local attorney Angelina Gracy Sokoo-Bobb, The Death Penalty Project continued to assist Mr Fox in order to challenge his continued incarceration. In 2018, attempts were made to address the prison’s failure to comply with Rules 35 and 40 of the Prison Rules.  

The Prerogative of Mercy is a power vested in the Governor-General of St Kitts and Nevis. It enables the government to pardon a prisoner, reduce their sentence or remit whole or part of their punishment. The Mercy Board must consider a person for release under the following conditions: those who have served ten years of their sentence prior to attaining the age of 60, or those who have served fifteen years of their sentence. Additional considerations for a prisoners release under the Prerogative of Mercy includes the mental and bodily condition of prisoners, as well as the effect of imprisonment on their health, demeanour and attitude towards crime in general.  

In August 2020 Ms Sokoo-Bobb wrote to the Minister of National Security, stating that at this point Mr Fox had served 22 years of his sentence and was 69 years old. The failure to review Mr Fox’s continued imprisonment was a breach of his statutory rights and legitimate expectation under provisions of the Prison Rules.  

Release 

In 2021, Mr Fox filed Judicial Review proceedings to challenge his continued incarceration and the failure of the authorities to review his sentences. The Court ordered that the Mercy Board should review his case and his application for release.  

In May 2022 his case was finally heard by the Mercy Committee and on 5 August 2022 Mr Fox was released from prison. 

Alongside The Death Penalty Project and Angelina Gracy Sokoo-Bobb, Mr Fox received pro bono assistance from several UK barristers over the years including, Edward Fitzgerald QC, Sir Julian Knowles QC (now a High Court judge), Amanda Clift-Matthews and Peter Lownds. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the team at the Death Penalty project for not only saving my father’s life but for also securing his release. Families like mine are indebted to you, the work you do not only saves your clients lives, but you also save the lives of us the families, as you give us hope.

Sandra Williams, daughter of Berthill Fox

Case Timeline

  1. Mr Fox shot and killed his fiancé and her mother. He was 47 years old at the time.

  2. He was convicted for the murders and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty by the High Court of St. Kitts and Nevis.

  3. The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Fox's appeal against his conviction and sentence.

  4. The Death Penalty Project assisted Mr Fox with free legal representation in an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, who granted him leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence.

  5. Mr Fox appealed on three grounds, yet in a majority judgement, the Board dismissed his appeal.

  6. In a landmark judgement, The Privy Council allowed the appeal on sentence, ruling that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional, quashing his sentence and remitting the case to the High Court for re-sentencing.

  7. Mr Fox was re-sentenced in the High Court and given two life sentences. In the decision not to apply the death penalty, the judge placed significant weight on medical evidence from Mr Fox’s 2002 psychiatric report

  8. Mr Fox appealed against the life sentences imposed by the Court of Appeal of St. Kitts and Nevis. Once again, his appeal was dismissed, and his life sentences upheld.

  9. Mr Fox writes to the Superintendent of the prison requesting they consider his release as provided by Rule 40 of the Prison Rules.

  10. The Death Penalty Project starts working with local attorney Ms Sokoo-Bobb, who writes to the Superintendent on the failure to comply by Rules 35 and 40 of the Prison Rules.

  11. Mr Fox and other prisoners bring a legal challenge to the government seeking that their cases be considered by the Mercy Board.

  12. The Government agrees Mr Fox’s case should be heard by the Mercy Board.

  13. Mr Fox files submissions with the Mercy Board in St. Kitts and Nevis seeking his release from prison.

  14. The Mercy Board grant Mr Fox immediate release.

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