Two women’s organizations are calling for a national dialogue on reforms to the judicial system on the heels of the early release of convicted murderer Arleigh Hector James earlier this week.
James was originally sentenced to hang in 1996 for the murder of his wife and stepdaughter two years earlier. However his sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
After the 59-year-old James gained his freedom earlier this week after 22 years behind bars, the Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW) asked whether there were new policies in place governing the release of prisoners and the granting of bail to murder suspects.
“We are definitely concerned about the way in which the Mercy Committee is operating. We are unclear what are the requirements to release persons, especially in light of the brutal murder of not just one person – but a woman and a child.
“The sentence was changed to life in prison and then that prisoner is out in less time than a life sentence, and we would have thought that especially with the murder of a child, that the person spends the required amount of time [in jail],” coordinator of the Club’s crisis centre Marlene Hewitt told Barbados TODAY.
A statement issued by the BPW today also questioned whether enough consideration was being given to the families of the victims in helping them to understand how the judicial system works.
“We have seen the recent story of a woman and family of the victim, confronted with newspaper accounts of the release of the person charged with the murder of her partner. We also hear the concerns of mothers of murdered children fearing walking into the released men charged with the murder of their children while trying earnestly to be fair, stay in the space of grace and peace that have kept their sanity since having to deal with the death of their children,” the statement said.
Founder of local charity SAVE Foundation Liesel Daisley supported the BPW’s call for dialogue on the matter.
“I think that hearing from the powers that be and the persons that make the decisions, I think it would be great to hear from them so that when persons are released we are not in shock and wondering why.
“I think that if the public knows how they go about making this decision it would be very useful and then maybe we’d be able to make sense of it and understand better not only why certain persons are released early, but why certain persons are given bail as well, after they have been accused of murder,” Daisley told Barbados TODAY.
She added that despite the amount of time James spent behind bars, she did not believe justice was served.
“I know many will say that he spent over 20 years in prison and that is a long time. But the reality is that he is back out on the street and didn’t serve his full sentence. I don’t think that justice was served because now he is free to live his life, however there are two beautiful ladies that are dead . . . and they will never have the opportunity to get a second chance.
“He was sentenced to life, and it means that he has to die in prison. I think that’s what life in prison means, when you get a life sentence. I don’t think it means you get released before you serve your life sentence,” she said.
Meanwhile Hewitt noted that the BPW was not only concerned about cases involving violence against women, but violence in all sections of society.
“We welcome a 2016 approach to punishment and rehabilitation, but as a society and a democracy our voices must be included in helping to shape a policy that is fair and just to all citizens,” the club said.