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Death penalty on the table

By Richardson Dhalai and Andre bagoo Thursday, August 29 2013

As Government and Opposition teams meet today to continue discussions on anti-crime measures, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has acknowledged that one of the issues on the table is the death penalty

Government had sought to re-implement the death penalty through the Constitution Capital Offences Bill 2011, which required a special majority in Parliament, but which did not receive the support of Opposition parliamentarians.

However, speaking to reporters following the lighting ceremony of the Morne Diablo Recreation Ground on Scott Road, Morne Diablo, Penal on Tuesday night, Persad-Bissessar said the death penalty would be discussed at today’s meeting.

“It is open for discussion. The majority of the citizens seem to be in favour of the death penalty. We go into the talks with an open mind. It will be one of the issues on the table for discussion,’ Persad-Bissessar assured.

“I am very heartened by the move of the Opposition to join with the Government in trying to suggest ways forward in the fight against crime,” she said, adding, “it is something we have inherited, we continue to be very concerned that we are not moving fast enough to bring down the crime.”

She once again reiterated the crime situation was the “number one” issue facing her administration. She noted that although serious crime had experienced a 34 percent reduction, the murder rate continued to be “very, very high.”

“We must acknowledge and thank the police that we have been able to bring down the serious crimes by about 34 percent, but the murder rate continues to be very, very high and it is something that we will continue to put all our heads together, all our hearts together, all our minds together in that fight against crime,” she said.

The Opposition is also expected to raise the issue of the abolition of the Privy Council as the country’s final court of appeal, to be replaced by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Government has proposed a partial withdrawal from the Privy Council, suggesting that only civil cases should go before the CCJ. The Opposition wants both civil and criminal cases to be heard by the CCJ

President of the Criminal Bar Association Pamela Elder SC yesterday stated the proposal for the abolition of the Privy Council would, in fact, make the criminal justice system more efficient.

“I am in favour of that,” she told Newsday after a preliminary review of the list of proposals drawn up thus far. “It is going to expedite the criminal justice system. Just look at the length of time it takes for a criminal case to reach the Privy Council, as well as all the costs involved.”

However, Elder expressed the view that the proposals in the current talks between the Government and Opposition deal with punishment and not the root cause of the crime. She said though, there was a possible link between tougher laws, the deterrent effect of these remains unclear amid a lack of proper analysis of the root causes of crime. She said the talks need to be far wider than between the Government and Opposition.

“It is quite easy to find measures for punishment, but will that act as a deterrent?” she said. “I’ve looked at all these measures listed and this is what we have been doing over the years, and yet crime is increasing,” she added.

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