Where hangs the death penalty?  

Here we are again, clamouring for the death penalty as if it is a crime-fighting solution as opposed to a punishment. Resort to demands for executions shows mob mentality and a lack of actual, real solutions to tackling the rise in crime.

Pratt & Morgan v The Attorney General of Jamaica, decided that keeping a convicted murderer on death row for five years without carrying out the death sentence was inhumane and degrading and therefore unconstitutional. Even condemned prisoners are entitled to fundamental rights and freedoms. We still can’t manage to complete the entire appellate process in five years – and I suspect we have given up trying.

Boyce v Joseph, CCJ Appeal No. CV2 of 2006, decided that the death penalty was a perfectly constitutional approach to punishment but that Barbados could not execute condemned prisoners while appeals to international human rights bodies were pending, even though those rights of appeal had not been incorporated into the domestic law by an Act of Parliament.

We sign up for all kinds of treaties, but no one has thought to establish some legislative change to the rule in Pratt & Morgan. So when you add international tribunals to the hierarchy and those international tribunals are decidedly against executing prisoners, you end up with a populace clamouring for something they just simply will never be able to get.

On November 5, 1981, Barbados ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 4 of which discourages use of the death penalty. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has stated that “without going so far as to abolish the death penalty, the Convention imposes restrictions designed to delimit strictly its application and scope, in order to reduce the application of the penalty and to bring about its gradual disappearance.”

In the Boyce & Joseph appeal to the IACHR, it was found that the mandatory death sentence imposed on all those convicted of murder in Barbados violates the right to life, as it is arbitrary and fails to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes.

Our Government has undertaken to abolish the mandatory aspect of the death penalty and will repeal the Savings Law Clause contained in Section 26 of the Constitution, which underpins the constitutionality of the death penalty in our Westminster constitutions.

Nearly a decade has passed since this undertaking and we still have seen no legislative changes outlining varying categories of murder with the associated penalties. Think about what you see on TV, for example, with first-, second- and third-degree murder. Instead, all we continue to get is a lot of long talk from politicians and an attempt to lie by omission. Not one of them has taken the time to explain to the public the depth of our international commitments on this issue and that, realistically speaking, we are probably never going to see a hanging again.

Given the vagaries of our court system, the manner in which crimes are investigated and all the other fallibilities of humans, I personally am not uncomfortable with the cessation of executions.

We were at one point allowing all manner of persons who had been charged with murder to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter, thereby circumventing the death penalty provisions and the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2002. No one is allowed to plead guilty to murder, since that means you should automatically die (and only a madman would do that), but there should be a trial as opposed to allowing obvious murderers to plead to a lesser offence and, at some point in the future, walk amongst us. We should, however, wait and see the approach of the new Director of Public Prosecutions to this issue.

Source: (Alicia Archer is an attorney-at-law in private practice)

9 Responses to Where hangs the death penalty?  

  1. Alex Alleyne September 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    PEOPLE ALL GET SERIOUS, BARBADOS CANNOT AND WILL NEVER HANG ANOTHER “FELLER” EVER AGAIN AFTER SIGNING ALL THOSE HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES .
    BARBADOS GO OUT THERE LIKE A BULL HEAD DOWN AND PLASTER IT’S SIGNATURE ON EVERY PAPER THAT IS PUT IN FRONT OF THEM.
    WE SHOULD THEN FOCUS ON “LIFE IN JAIL WITHOUT PAROLE” .
    Dodds big and beautiful and expensive too. Why not let the “Bad Boys” be “Home away from Home”…….for LIFE.

    Reply
  2. fedup September 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    ..and we will never know about any new ‘Treaties’ this year at UN General Assembly. smh. Anything about cutting off the digits of trigger happy murderers or a fitting penalty for stabbers?

    Reply
  3. Lee September 15, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Why hang? Hanging is medieval !! What is wrong with lethal injection? It’s cheaper, clean (less faeces etc.), more “humane”, and seems to attract less attention from capital punishment opponents.

    Reply
  4. John JT Titheridge
    John JT Titheridge September 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    If we had a vote in the UK the people would vote for it…mobs always do…Democracy is a good system mut sometimes just because more people want something it doesn’t make them right…

    Reply
  5. Dennis Taitt
    Dennis Taitt September 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Slave system. Find other ways to punish offenders. Politicians and people from the higher eschelons of society

    Reply
  6. Michael Crichlow
    Michael Crichlow September 15, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Government State sponsored murder, factual is not deterrent nor the solution… here is an example for instant…in Saudi Arabia women are stone for adultery quite often..a hand is amputated for stealing some people have no hands remained …You are behead for capital Crimes .the sword is getting blunt….hello!!you can never legislate human behaviour….next!

    Reply
  7. Othneal September 15, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Humans have always killed other humans and always will. History testifies to that truism. No civilisation has ever found a solution to this strange behavior.
    There was an ancient civilisation, whose name escapes me at present, who punished murderers by strapping the victim to the perpetrator’s back until decomposition was complete. The implication for the perpetrator is obvious, and leaves little to the imagination. I have no knowledge as to how effective it was, but, I suspect murder was a rare event.
    I am always struck with amazement at the attitude of murderers to the death sentence. Almost without exception, they go to great lengths to preserve their own life, giving the impression that the only life they value is their own. Is this an indication of their value to society? Since a human cannot return the life they take it is only just that they forfeit theirs, literally or figuratively.

    Reply
  8. Peter Lowe
    Peter Lowe September 15, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Why hang the small man when the problems and corruption start with the people at the top?….and they know that, that’s why they can’t hang a fella

    Reply
  9. Rasta Wain September 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    the death penalty is punishment, not a deterrent.

    Reply

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