All 11 convicted killers on death row at Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds, St Philip will have to be resentenced the Attorney General Dale Marshall has told Parliament.
But Marshall also disclosed “the frightening prospect” that scores of other Barbadians, now facing trial for murder may never be sentenced to die once convicted.
The revelation came during debate on the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill 2018, which the House of Assembly passed to abolish the mandatory death sentence, as ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The CCJ had ruled that the mandatory death sentenced currently on the statute books of this country was unconstitutional.
“Now the 11 who are currently in Dodds, by ruling that their sentence is unconstitutional, they will all have to be resentenced,” said Marshall.
Each death row prisoner will now have to return to court where a judge “will take into account such matters as he needs to take into account and then make a decision,” he told fellow lawmakers.
But the resentencing under the amended law would not prevent a judge from re-imposing a death sentence as capital murder is still on the law books.
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights had already ordered resentencing in respect of two convicts, Marshall added.
But the Attorney General then revealed the scores of individuals now facing murder charges who may never be sentenced to death if convicted.
“Mr Speaker, as at today, there are 62 Barbadian men and women who are awaiting trial for murder. There are six awaiting trial for manslaughter. There are 11 people on death row. So 62 and six is 68 and 11 is 79. So sir, as we speak today we have 79 people whom this statute could possibly affect,” Marshall said.
“But it must be a frightening prospect for us sir, that we have 62 people who are charged with murder but on the law as it stands, we would likely not be able to inflict capital punishment on them,” he said.
The Attorney General explained that if Government did not come to Parliament to change the law on the mandatory death sentence in light of the CCJ ruling, judges would be facing a serious dilemma.
“If an individual is convicted of murder tomorrow, the judge will immediately go to the Offences Against the Person Act, which says that he must sentence that individual to death. But the problem is that he is also bound by the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice which says that you cannot sentence the individual to death,” he pointed out.
Marshall also said that even though he told the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Donna Babb to fast-track all the murder cases and get them before the courts, he at the same time had to tell her to put them on hold.
“Because, if a person is convicted tomorrow, that judge can’t go left and he can’t go right. He can’t sentence them to death, but he can’t not sentence them to death. Now how can a responsible Government put a judge in that position?” he asked, adding that the amendment had to be made to the law.