Understanding the Law
April 23, 2010
The Criminal Code in SVG

FOR the last two weeks we looked at the sentencing policy of the Court and how it arrives at a sentence for offenders. You must, however, remember that for most offences, statute provides a minimum and maximum gauge within which the sentencer could maneuver. The Criminal Code that is given as Chapter 124 of the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, 1990 Edition, is Act No. 23 of 1988 and was amended by Act No 26 of 1989. Along with other enactments it provides the punishment for crimes in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}} I draw your attention to some of the provisions of the Criminal Code Cap 124 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 1990 Edition.

Both the High Court and the Magistrate’s Court deal with punishment for offenders on indictment and summarily, respectively. Where a matter is a hybrid matter, it could be heard in either the Magistrate’s Court or the High Court.

General rules

Before mention is made of the punishment, some comments must be made about a few general rules concerning liability. For example, ignorance of the law is no excuse for any act or omission of the law, “unless knowledge of the law by the offender is expressly declared to be an element of the offence.”

A child who is under the age of eight is not criminally responsible for a crime or for an omission that constitutes a crime.

Every person is presumed to be of sound mind at the material time when he or she commits a crime except it is proven otherwise. I will expand on this area in a subsequent article.

Punishments for offender as given by the Code:

1. death;
2. imprisonment;
3. fine;
4. payment of compensation;
5. finding security to keep the peace and be of good behavior or to come up for judgment;
6. probation under the Probation of Offenders Act;
7. forfeiture of articles involved in the offence;
8. costs;
9. in the case of a male person of any age, corporal punishment in accordance with the provisions of the Corporal Punishment of Juvenile Act;
10. a supervision order under section 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code
11. any other punishment expressly provided for by any law for the time being in force.

Sentence of Death

Even though the death penalty has not been carried out recently, the punishment still remains on our statute book. When a person is given the death penalty, the sentencer must state that the person is “to suffer death in the manner authorized by law.” A child under the age of sixteen cannot be sentenced to death, but could be kept in lawful custody.

A woman who is pregnant would have a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Any sentence of death must be reported to the Governor-General. No death sentence can take effect unless confirmed by the Governor- General, and he must issue a warrant to the Superintendent of Prisons where the convicted person is detained.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com