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Special Report by Emmanuel Joseph

Published Feb 10, 2023 | Part 3

Special Report by Emmanuel Joseph

Published Feb 10, 2023 | Part 3

The level of gun-related deaths last year was not just troubling for the Government’s chief legal advisor. As far as Attorney General Dale Marshall is concerned, it was outrageous – not just the statistics but the cold-heartedness with which these acts were committed.

Up to December 29, 2022, 43 people were killed in Barbados. Of those, 33 were victims of shootings. Marshall noted that the number of gun deaths were not at its highest in 2022. Still, “it is too high”.

“That we have had 43 homicides for the year is something to be decried. That of that 43, 33 are firearm-enabled is especially outrageous,” Marshall told REVEALED near the end of 2022.

“That 43 speaks to a society that, despite all that I have said about us being orderly and stable and well-regulated, it speaks to a sector of our society…males, young, who have lost their way. It speaks to a sector of our society that the research indicates they do not feel that they have a vested interest in the society as a whole. “The public has seen the callousness with which human lives have been taken. They have seen it on video…. Fortunately for us, we have a lot of cameras, CCTV and otherwise that are able to pick up these things and that’s a useful tool,” the Attorney General added.

He cited the fatal ride-by-shooting of Lamar Ricardo Travis Johnson on the busy Tweedside Road, St Michael on December 21, 2022 that was caught on CCTV and the daring daylight killing of Damian Trotman in the crowded Sheraton Mall on March 21, 2019 as examples of a bolder criminal that has emerged recently.

One of the big questions that has been asked is what can be done to stop the illegal important of these weapons that have taken and disrupted so many lives.
Commissioner of Police Richard Boyce reported a record seizure of firearms in 2022. He said that up to December 8, 137 firearms were recovered as compared with 58 for the whole of 2021 – a haul the Attorney General labelled phenomenal.

Marshall said the number of guns recovered was a reflection of the hard work being done by the police officers.

“Those are tangible gains. It is not often that we can identify numbers like that, and that has nothing to do with prosecutions. Prosecutions are down the line, but to have been able to pick up the large number of firearms off the streets and out of the hands of people… that kind of policing is important.

“Getting our hands on those firearms is a significant success,” he asserted.

“But preventing the firearms from getting into Barbados is an endeavour that would probably have no end. We have beefed up technologically to try to prevent firearms from coming in. We have increased the cooperation between agencies to stop the firearms from coming in. We have increased the cooperation between our international partners to stop the firearms from coming in. The public would be aware that we have had tremendous successes in recent times . . .

“You would know of a seizure of well over 30 firearms, so these are things that are happening,” Marshall added, referring to guns and ammo found in a barrel at the Bridgetown Port on October 24, 2022.

The Attorney General said he was satisfied with the efforts which have yielded success.He added: “I know we are still going to be doing things to try to keep them out, but we are committed to having all of our agencies staffed with people who pass through verification tests. That is an important law enforcement tool.”

Those individuals include those at the ports of entry, such Customs – “all the people in sensitive areas which represent potential weak spots in terms of guns coming in”.“We are committed to ensuring we have only the people of the highest integrity working in those areas; that is going to be one of our main efforts for 2023. But while we try to choke off what’s coming in, we also have to deal with the ones that made their way in under the safety net.


JAN - DEC 2022

Location of Shooting – O

*stats provided by

*Data unavailable for 1 murder in the period of Jan-Dec 2022.

*All identified areas are approximate locations according to media reports.

*Data unavailable for 1 murder in the period of Jan-Dec 2022.

*Location represent area of shootings and not necessarily area of death.

“We are optimistic that we are making progress. But the challenge is, if you don’t know how many came in, it is difficult to measure and say well you have gotten rid of five per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent. We have no ability to do that. We simply don’t know what numbers came in…. We fear you will probably never know because they are smuggled in,” the AG pointed out.

And with guns already in the island and in the hands of people with sinister intentions, finding a solution will require “a lot of work”, Marshall acknowledged, and not just by police either.

He said Barbadians generally have to reflect on how they have failed these young people who are on a path of destruction, and how they would rescue them. “It is in part only a law enforcement issue. The law enforcement mechanism is invariably triggered after these things happen. But as we look at the year past and think about the year to come, we have to ask ourselves if in our own way we have not contributed to some of these young men,” he said, though he added that women are “involved in that kind of lifestyle as well”.

“We are going to put resources to rescue our young men and women, but without our communities being involved in that exercise we are not going to be guaranteed success.”

The AG assured that the Barbados Police Service, to which the public owes “tremendous gratitude”, will be given the tools to be better equipped to fight crime and arrest the troubling situation.

“I have seen the hard effort that has been put in by the Police Service to keep Barbados safe at all times, but especially in 2022 and especially at a time when we had those gun spikes. The members of the Barbados Police Service redoubled their effort to make sure that Barbadians were safe,” he said.

“Policing is a challenging career and those Barbadian families and Barbadian households who have police officers in them will know the sacrifices that those brave men and women make every day to safeguard our society. When Barbadians are sleeping, they cannot be sleeping.”

He said increasing specialised training for law enforcement officers is among plans in the pipeline. The plans for this year will build on a programme that began in 2021 and continued into 2022, which saw officers being embedded with the Durham Constabulary in the United Kingdom for a six-week period.

“This was not just a classroom thing and, therefore, they were able to bring back skills. But we are also looking in 2023 to bring a more intensive form of training to make sure that everybody – from Sergeant up to Superintendent – …in addition to what we are already doing…receives intensive training. We can only expect the Police Service to operate in a modern way if we have systems in place for constant training and retraining and retraining,” Marshall declared.

Despite praising the constabulary for their efforts, the minister responsible for police affairs acknowledged that law enforcement officers received “some licks” in the past year for some things that have happened in the Police Service.

“Of some concern to me is the feeling that the Police Service still slips up every now and again. Of concern to me, and I think to most of us, is the idea that in some areas…sensitive information…[such as statements given to police] can be in the public domain.

“I have asked and the Commissioner [of Police] has already begun that work in investigating those things to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. They were unheard of previously, but there are some things that are creeping into our society because everybody must get the news first and everybody must be able to post something on social media so they can get the extra hits. It is a concern for us, and included in the training has to be sensitivity training,” the AG explained, adding that police officers must be reminded that their job is based on trust.

“There are new tools, new methodologies that have to be brought to bear on policing and those skills have to be imbued into a modern Barbados Police Service.” Marshall added that encouraging more people to join the Police Service is high on the agenda as well.

“We are committed to filling that shortfall that has persisted for decades. We have a total establishment of about 1 500 police men and women but for decades we seemed only to have been able to get 1 250. We go up a little bit and come down a little bit but that is probably the average number.

“And we have committed and are working hard with the Service and the high command to make we can present policing as an attractive, modern career option, as it is, and make sure we bring the complement of personnel back up to the 1 500 level,” he pledged.

With those additional resources and other planned initiatives, his ministry hopes to breathe new life into the Police Service.

While applauding law enforcers for an outstanding crime fighting job during the past year, Marshall also addressed the role that the judiciary has played as a deterrent to perpetrators of gun crimes.

The Government’s top legal adviser did not mince his words.

“The capacity of the judicial side of things to be a solid deterrent depends in part on justice being swift – how soon after you commit a crime do you get a sentence for it?”

Now, this has bedeviled us for years. We have people who are on bail for two, and sometimes three, homicides. That’s not the norm, but there are people who are on bail for more than one homicide. There are people who are on bail for more than homicide and have a long list of other offences – firearms, robberies, rape, all kinds,” Marshall said.

“I cannot predict if a person would be found guilty or not. I don’t have those powers. But so long as our court system is able to deal with cases swiftly, then the criminal element will know that when caught, there is a risk of punishment following very shortly. That is key, in my view, to helping us. It’s not the solution, but it is key to helping us deal with the issue of violence and young offenders. Punishment must follow swiftly. If they get off, they get off. A man is innocent until he is proven guilty,” he reasoned.

“But if we are able to get our cases through quickly then we will see some sanitary effects. As I said, when punishment was swift, you behave yourself. But when punishment is deferred to Lord knows when you continue doing what you are doing. That’s why our efforts to strengthen our judiciary in terms of the criminal bench is so important,” the AG added.

Marshall disclosed that an eighth High Court judge will be appointed early in the New Year to sit on the criminal bench.

“So, we have gone from two in 2018 to seven, and shortly to eight. We have made additional investments in terms of our infrastructure in terms of courtrooms so we will have the courtrooms to put them in. We have increased the number of prosecutors,” he added.

He further noted that the Government has heard the cries of judges, prosecutors, and defence lawyers and has established the post of Deputy Registrar for the criminal courts to deal exclusively with speeding up the judicial process.

“We are really making strides in terms of making our criminal bench responsive and being an important partner in the delivery of justice. This is something that we can be proud of in 2022,” Marshall stated.

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