Gonsalves: ‘I am a death penalty man’
September 20, 2011
Gonsalves: ‘I am a death penalty man’

An animated Minister of National Security and Legal Affairs, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that if he had had his way, the death penalty would have been easier to enforce here.{{more}}

The Prime Minister, responding to a question during at a press conference last Friday, September 16, at Cabinet Room, said that there is nothing he could do to have capital punishment, which is hanging, reintroduced in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as his hands are tied against making any changes to the Constitution.

He said that had the draft constitution which was voted down in a referendum in 2009 been accepted, it would have been almost impossible for serious murders not to have the death penalty applied.

“….I went to the public with a constitutional reform package to strengthen the provisions relating to the death penalty; it was a strong, tough position where certain offences would have been seen as of a particular serious kind, deserving the death penalty…. But the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said ‘No’. They didn’t want the new constitution, you remember?”

Describing himself as ‘a death penalty man,’ Dr. Gonsalves informed the press that unlike some Caribbean countries such as Barbados, it was impossible for him to make any adjustments to the death penalty outside of constitutional reform, and that any attempt to do so in the Parliament would be deemed unconstitutional and illegal.

According to him, because of interpretation, the Court of Appeal and the British Privy Council, the country’s last line of appeal, have made it difficult, to almost impossible to execute the death penalty.

“It has to be the worst of the worst and it has a lot of hurdles you have to jump through…. Because the Privy Council had said the provision in the constitution does not mean that the death penalty should be applied in a mandatory fashion for a murder. To do so would be unconstitutional.”

Dr. Gonsalves’ comments came on the heels of the shooting deaths of Ingrid Jack- Franklyn and Marva James, allegedly by Franklyn’s husband George, who is also alleged to have wounded two men on Tuesday, September 13, at Coconut Range, Campden Park.

Also on that very day, the body of Anthony Nero was discovered in a septic tank. His former lover Stefforn Williams is alleged to have killed him.

Both Williams and Franklyn have been charged with the offences, and the acts have once again stirred the debate surrounding capital punishment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Prime Minister, commenting on the incidents, described them as horrible acts and tragedies for the families involved and those charged, and urged that persons exercise more restraint.

“These are absence of restraint murders, which arise out of matters relating to passions.”

Currently, there are two persons on death row at Her Majesty’s Prisons in Kingstown.

The last time a person was executed here was in February 1993.(JJ)