The recent public calls for the gallows to swing once more, in response to the increase in gun violence which has accounted for 12 of the country’s 20 murders for the year so far, will not get the blessing of the United Progressive Party (UPP).
As a matter of fact, former head, and now deputy leader of the UPP, Lynette Eastmond, deemed such calls “irresponsible”, contending that these “long-neglected” persons could have been saved by society before they resorted to gun violence.
“People need to go in the courts and see the number of young people in the docks and these persons would have started to come while they were at school. These are young people that we have neglected, some of whom have problems and we knew they had problems from the time they were five or six years old and did nothing as a state and as a people. Instead we wait until they get 20 and shoot somebody and then say that we have to pop their neck. That is irresponsible,” stressed Eastmond.
Over the weekend during an address at the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St Peter branch meeting at Black Bess Pavilion, Attorney General Dale Marshall revealed that judges again had the green light to sentence convicted murderers to hang.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019, which no longer makes it mandatory for murderers to be sentenced to the death penalty, was passed last week in both Houses of Parliament. In January 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional. However, on Sunday Marshall argued that it was now within the discretion of the judge to hand down the maximum sentence for the capital offence.
“For years we’ve had a death penalty which has been mandatory. Our law used to say if you are charged with murder and convicted, you will be hanged. Now what that meant is that the judges weren’t deciding, it was
Parliament that decided what to do with the law,” Marshall said.
However, Eastmond, who is also an attorney-at-law by profession, is of the view that the evidence points to the death penalty being an ineffective deterrent.
“The top ten countries on the human development index have no death penalty. Other than having no death penalty, they look after all of their citizens . . . Barbados is not doing that and there is a certain class of citizens that aren’t being looked after. In those countries that rank high on the human development index, intervention takes place at an early age for troubled children . . . In Barbados there seems to be the view that there are people that we can discard,” said Eastmond, who also told Barbados TODAY that she was not impressed with Government’s “warmed over” approach to tackling gun violence.
The UPP founder was referring specifically to the current gun amnesty, which began on Sunday and ends on Saturday. She argued that this measure has been tried before on a number of times with very little to show for it. In addition, the attorney noted that while she hoped that persons turn in their firearms, many would deem it a risky gamble to do so at a police station.
“I think there is little chance of it working because Barbados is small and there is nothing called anonymous. So I don’t see anybody taking that risk. Persons who are finished with guns would more likely just throw away the gun rather than take it to a police station,” she contended. firstname.lastname@example.org