Full Disclosure
December 15, 2006

Punishment for Advanced Criminality

Whilst the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines is founded on the principles of a Liberal Democracy, it is crucial to note that our rights and freedoms whereas protected by the constitution are not absolute – particularly the right to freedom of speech. Every Vincentian has the freedom to hold opinions and freedom of expression without interference. However, this is subject to certain restriction as one has to respect the rights or reputations of others, and also for the protection of national security or of public order and morals.{{more}}

Around the world and here at home, there is an incredible upsurge in the struggle between the law breakers and the upholders of the law. It is clear in the Middle East, and we think to ourselves that we are somehow above that unconscionable level of violence. But, are we aware that any single gruesome criminal act that occurs on the soil of St Vincent and the Grenadines reflects poorly on all Vincentians at home and in the Diaspora, since we are seen as a collective?

Stacy Wilson, a 21-year old resident of Vermont was brutally killed amidst the crowded Leeward bus terminal. This horrifying act somehow bears resemblance to that of terrorist brutality and barbarianism. This is a whole new level of violence against women in St Vincent and the Grenadines and we must condemn such acts openly. The world having just celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against all women on November 25 in an effort to stop all violence against women is not limited to domestic violence. One practical step forward is for the systems of our society such as the justice and police systems through their policies, resources, and programs to firmly support women who make reports of violence against their person.

Seemingly our society has reached a new stage of advanced criminality, and we must implement new ways of punishment for crimes which are so disturbing. Given this advanced stage of criminality, should we not be thinking of certain revolutions in our Criminal jurisprudence? Should we not be considering different levels of punishment? Would our justice system be worth its salt if it fails to evolve with the evolving times? This unequivocally calls for a revisiting of the death penalty issue regionally and the time between the trial and the actual execution.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in England, the highest court of appeal for most of the English-speaking Caribbean states, including St Vincent ruled on February 22, 2002 in three separate cases that the imposition of a mandatory death sentence, where the defendant has no opportunity to advance personal or offence-based mitigation, was unconstitutional. While the ruling does not forbid the death penalty, the ruling affects the imposition of the death penalty, as England has in keeping with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR) abolished the death penalty in all circumstances with no exception. Capital punishment is a necessity in any society as it serves as an effective deterrent to the most violent of crimes, it prevents recidivism, and is an appropriate punishment for the crime of murder.

Where are we headed as a nation? What effect does this have on our young men’s outlook? As a society, we must continue in our efforts to discipline our children, impart sound values and principles and in doing so, not spare the rod and spoil the child. This is crucial in training up children in the way that they should go, so that when they are older, they will not depart from this training. This is a biblical stance. This brings us to another issue, one of corporal punishment. Not to be confused with capital punishment, as the application of corporal punishment will eliminate the need for the aforementioned. Studies have proven that it is in essence not less effective than other methods of managing undesired behaviour. In doing so, there must be a constructive lesson learnt by the child and not an abusive one. The institutions such as the family, schools and church must not ignore the role such disciplinary measures in the prevention of molding criminals.

In an effort to continue securing our nation, let us not ignore the potential for a good thing to be abused. While the CSME allows the movement of people of different cultures and philosophies, for the purposes of economic growth, it is not immune from criminals entering our doors. Proper measures must be in place in the same manner in which we have approached the security measures for the 2007 World Cup event, to address foreign nationals who seek to abuse and misuse the CSME for criminal gains. If we are unprepared in the event of such, we will expose an untrained police force and open up a Wild West type of society.