Authorities looking to send a strong message to criminals

Retired juvenile court magistrate Faith Marshall-Harris says the jury is still out on whether a gun amnesty will work in Barbados.

However, responding to a recent spate of violent crime here, Marshall-Harris today strongly agreed with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart that a clear and unequivocal signal must be sent to would-be perpetrators that “crime does not pay”.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the former coroner drew a link between rising gun crime and the illegal drug trade, while warning that a stern message needed to be sent to offenders that the authorities will not tolerate the illegal possession or abuse of firearms.

Faith Marshall-Harris
Faith Marshall-Harris

“I think that we were somewhat going in the right direction when we introduced some draconian sentencing for firearm offences,” she said, while acknowledging that the measures did “not leave enough judicial discretion”.

“For example, you had instances where somebody was charged with possession of two rounds of ammunition and they would have gotten the severest penalty as someone who would have been caught with an arsenal of guns.

So that needs a bit of tweaking in terms of allowing for more judicial discretion in the sentencing. But, having said that, I was quite in favour to some extent, of the fact that it sent a message that we would not tolerate the proliferation of firearms,” added Marshall-Harris, who is a child rights advocate.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today on a bill to amend the Prisons Act, Prime Minister Stuart also zeroed in on the domestic problem of crime, warning that “no society can survive if the message out in the society is that crime pays”.

“The clearest signal has to be sent to perpetrators of crime that crime does not pay, and the best way to send that signal is by effective modes of punishment,” he added.

However, Stuart contended that in circumstances where people were imprisoned, the idea was not just to send them there and feed them and subject them to various forms of discipline.

“The object is to ensure that when those people leave prison and come back into society, that they can make a contribution to the society and can be reintegrated as easily as possible. Now that is a big challenge for countries like Barbados,” he acknowledged.

“Because of the smallness of our societies; because our societies are highly personalised societies; because everybody knows everybody else and knows everybody else’s family, it is very difficult for persons to commit criminal offences and to be forgotten very easily by the society,” the Prime Minister pointed out.

With this in mind, Stuart said rehabilitation became even more difficult.

“But because it is difficult, doesn’t mean we should not try it. And therefore, we must not only work on the perpetrator of crime, but we also have to tackle the society itself in respect as to how it relates to people who have had a criminal past.”

During the parliamentary debate, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite also weighed in on the issue of crime and punishment in Barbados.

Brathwaite said since most crimes were committed by young people, systems must be put in place to give them a second chance.

However, he insisted that this did not mean Government was backing off on crime.

“As Attorney General, certainly this Government has no intention of being soft on crime. We still believe that there is a role to be played for when someone infringes our laws that there is some penalty to be attached,” he said.

At the same time, he did not feel every sanction must be imprisonment.


3 Responses to ENOUGH!

  1. Edwards December 3, 2014 at 2:21 am

    Yes toughen the laws in regards to those found in possession of guns. But if the only arrests are after a crime has been committed with the gun then the damage has already occurred. You have to search people, houses and outhouses to find these guns and monitor criminal activity. Monitor what is coming into the country and by what corrupt means.

  2. Brimstone December 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Talk and more talk. If we deal with crime and punishment, then there is an easy solution.
    All premeditated murders,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, hang them

    All gun and/or weapons offenses,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 1 to 6 strokes (cat-o-nine tails)

    All rapes ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 2 strokes (cat)

    All other,,,,,,,,,,,, tamarind rod, CAT, or incarceration as warranted.

    We would save on prison cost and the society would be better.

  3. Maxine Baker December 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    What we would need moreso, is a mandatory parenthood programme for all parents of children from 0 to 18, to be delivered to persons who are serious of assisting in the development of our youth into “strict guardians of our heritage and firm craftsmen of our fate”. We need to revamp the curricula of our educational system from Nursery to Secondary, in such a matter that would include the offering of Spirituality – not Religious Studies, Civics, Ecology and Existentialism. I am sure that we would find persons who would be willing to take the relative materials and prepare them for the three levels of education – Nursery, Primary and Secondary and persons like myself could be employed in these regards instead of being confined to air-conditoned buildings that causes ill-health and harsh comments from others because of your ill-health that was exacerbated as a result of having to remain the said sick buildings..

    The journey will not be a “quick-fix”. It will demand time and persons who are very serious at being agents of this kind of change. We would have to forget the parochial friendships, the family members, the “classism”, the “square pegs in round holes” and the politics.Let us get serious. There are those of us who would want to be a part of such a change but too much emphasis is placed on “who likes who” instead of “those who have been commissioned by the Master and equipped with the relevant talent(s) to guide our young people on a path to total self-awareness.


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