A new legal year has opened with a top Anglican cleric appealing for criminal offenders to be pardoned.
In a sermon marking the start of the 2016/2017 legal year, Dean of the Cathedral Dr Jeffrey Gibson told members of the legal fraternity that they ought to practise both forgiveness and reconciliation.
Addressing a congregation which included Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, the Dean made particular mention of this island’s celebration of its Jubilee year, pointing out that in the Bible it was a time when, among other things, debts were forgiven and land which was leased was restored, so that God’s mercies could be realized.
Virtue, value and vision then shaped the next 50 years of their national life, he said.
Gibson stressed the importance of forgiveness between God and man, as well as one-on-one forgiveness and societal forgiveness, adding that “when an individual offends society by committing a crime” there was a need for forgiveness and healing “after the appropriate sorrow for the offence has been established”.
Although “forgiveness was not the job of the court”, the priest explained that it formed “part of the jubilee principle” and urged the justice system to embrace it.
Citing the example of Zacchaeus who had made a fortune by defrauding others, the speaker pointed out that it was “Jesus’ acceptance of him which enabled him to deal with his past, make restitution and change his behaviour”.
He acknowledged that the victims of crime and their families experienced a deep sense of loss, anger and grief. However, in order to mitigate this, the Dean suggested that victims play a greater part in the entire process through a reconciliation programme.
“Perhaps there is need for a process whereby the society can participate in the healing process; where victims can be relieved of their pain and offenders brought to the point where there is acknowledgement of guilt and expression of sorrow and a commitment to rehabilitation,” he said, adding that he hoped there would be the emergence of a victim/ offender reconciliation programme “even if only for young and first offenders”.
Gibson also called for society to “affirm the value of human life” and to have respect for the dignity of the human person, freedom, responsibility, solidarity and social justice.
He called for Government, non-governmental and other agencies to all “work together to affirm the value of life.”