Understanding the Law
January 18, 2013
Prevention is better than cure

It is the wish and hope of every society for crimes to be eradicated. Burglary and robbery have become a way of life for some persons. Since many of those caught are repeat offenders, it would better for society if we focus on the offenders with a view to reform. In this way, crimes would be prevented and our prison population would be vastly reduced.{{more}}

Who is the offender?

Some years ago, a man of forty years appeared before the Court of Appeal to appeal his conviction and sentence for robbery. The Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean, Sir Dennis Byron, thought it was unusual for a person of that age to appear before the court, charged with the crime of robbery, and as he noted, most offenders before the court for robbery were persons between the ages of 16 and 25 years. He opined that persons who commit robbery usually settle down by the age of 30 years. Besides the age group factor, from our own observations and from the statistics, most offenders are also males.

The prison population is indicative of the type of offenders, but there are offenders who, because of judges’ discretion and the system of mitigation, may be put on bond and have to report to police stations periodically. It is not unusual for first timers to be given a second chance.

Our male population

Since most of the offenders are males between the ages of 16 and 25 years, we need to focus on that group and make sure that our males are not initiated into crimes and that those who are already offenders are reformed. It is hoped that with a different approach to education and opportunities to stay in school longer, males would be kept out of crimes. It may require the strengthening of the counselling and guidance department in schools.

In this modern age, it is very difficult for the young people to resist temptation. They are bombarded on all sides with the life style of the wealthy and the invitations to become consumers of electronic items. Very often, they are also persuaded by the desire for immediate gratification. They must have a cell phone, an ipod or mp3 player, at any cost. And if they cannot have these from their parents they must get it elsewhere. There are those, too, who have become dependent on drugs and must satisfy their addiction by stealing.

We, therefore, have to improve lives in a meaningful way, so that our young people would not turn to crime. As I mentioned in an article some time ago, scientists have not isolated a criminal gene and there is a general belief that crime is cultural and not biological. John Lea and Jock Young, in “What is to be done about Law and Order (1984)” developed an approach to explaining criminality, in which they described crime as rooted in social conditions and in especially deprivation. One other social scientist insists that poverty is not a cause of crimes, because old people do not commit crimes.

We are a small country of 150 square miles; it should not be difficult to for the police to keep offenders within their view. The bottom line is that young males should be directed into productive endeavours, because persons with steady jobs rarely end up in jail for burglary and robbery.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]