I have the deepest sympathy for the victims of murder such as, members of the security forces, witnesses in trial proceedings, those murdered by others during robberies burglaries, sex offences, arson and acts deemed as terrorism. Therein lies the acts that carry a mandatory death penalty as is currently the law of the land.

As a pro life person I support the elimination of all known threats to human life whether it be AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria and as such the sentence of death is appropriate to get rid of convicted murderers. This is not only about hanging it is about justice and we must remind ourselves always of the words of former chief justice Lensley Wolfe, “there can be no peace without justice”.

Recently our members of parliament made presentations as a prelude to a conscience vote as to whether we retain the death penalty for murderers or administer some other form of punitive and rehabilitative justice. These presentations I considered somewhat useless and a sort of academic entertainment; an exercise in futility that was not geared to arriving at solutions to the myriad of problems that serve as a kind of fertilizer for crime growth or incentives for the manufacture of criminals.

Jamaica would be better off if parliamentarians stopped dee jaying and instead join heads, hearts and hands to find ways in which to create an environment in which murder and other antisocial acts would be on the way to becoming extinct and hopefully hanging would be abolished by default.

We need to address the deficiencies in our Justice system and eliminate brutality against each other so that people can get justice in a timely manner and not seek extra judicial services or take the law in their own hands. This among other state perpetrated or facilitated injustices has caused us to develop a sub-culture of murder and “bandooloism” as a solution to a lot of problems we face.

This has created an opportunity for the proliferation of dons and an assortment of area leaders providing service to their communities. I believe that we should hang people convicted of murder within the stipulated five years but in order to do so we must catch them first and have successful convictions. The mechanisms in place to do the catching, however, are woefully inadequate and continue to enhance the ability of Jamaica to maintain its status as a murderously profitable criminal’s paradise with celebrity “shottas” on every corner. I agree with some readers that the severity of any proposed punishment is irrelevant if the perpetrators have very little chance of being caught.

We have an average of 1,500 murders per year and on death row are less than 10 persons who will soon reach five years deemed to be cruel and inhumane treatment to be commuted to life in prison. There is also the matter of capital and non-capital murder for those caught may successfully argue them into the non-capital category even though they had the mind to murder and combine that with the act of murder. This law must be changed to determine murder from the actus reus (guilty act) and the mens rea (guilty mind) principle to establish criminal liability.

Take the utterances of Bruce Golding then head of the National Democratic Movement who criticized the then PNP government as “having an appetite for hanging“ who is now Prime Minister and head of the  ruling Jamaica Labour party:  have they gained or lost their appetite for hanging considering that the last two hangings of Nathan Foster and Stafford Dinnal from the Bethel Town police division in Westmoreland took place on the 18th of February 1988 while the Edward Seaga led JLP government was in power.

The preoccupation should not be only with hanging or whether it will be a panacea but with ensuring that there is justice for the murderers and the victims alike. The socio-cultural and economic environment must be addressed to enhance greater productivity, more jobs, better education and training,decent community and housing conditions.

The appetite for justice and human rights is overwhelming in Jamaica today. Standing out is  the indomitable Carolyn Gomes and the Jamaica Council for Human Rights, who has just received a most prestigious award for her work from the United Nations and must be congratulated. I think the next move should be to effect the necessary repairs to the gallows and get on with the administration of justice to facilitate some peace in our lives.

These are extraordinary times and some of our leaders having appropriately acted in a way that could not be interpreted as legalizing murder by voting by their consciences to retain the death penalty at this time should be commended.

Michael Spence
P.O Box 630,Liguanea
Kingston 6

Categories: Letters

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