Dear Editor: The death penalty won’t make our women or girls safe

Once again, the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) urge T&T’s government to focus on human development and crime prevention rather than expend time and energy in seeking to resume hanging.

CCSJ and GCL are aware that passions are running high in T&T because of the recent brutal murder of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt, barely two months after 18-year-old Ashanti Riley was also murdered.

However, the call by some to resume hanging is not going to fix the many problems that have led us to this juncture where our women and girls, indeed, citizens in general, are unable to go about their daily lives in peace.

Photo: Hangman’s noose

While our organisations condemn the rise of violent crime in our region and express solidarity with victims, members reject the notion that capital punishment will act as a deterrent or foster respect for life in our communities.

We agree with the sentiments expressed in the frontpage editorial of Sunday’s Guardian (February 7), that ‘experience elsewhere shows the death penalty does not reduce crime.’ We agree also with well-renowned criminologist Renee Cummings who stated in a post on social media on Sunday (February 7) that ‘no self-respecting criminologist would ever present the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.’

In 2018, Pope Francis revised the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty. The revised text, in paragraph 2267: ‘centres principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life’ (Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Inter alia, the revised text states: “… the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

It is time to stop the ‘blame game’ in T&T and use our collective human ingenuity to devise strategies to address the root causes of crime in our country. Why is it taking so long to create a transportation system that will serve our people effectively?

Sir Dennis Byron, former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice was right when he said: “Crime flourishes when the environment is conducive to people behaving in a certain way.”

Photo: Forensic scientists collect data at a crime scene.

To some extent, crime flourishes in T&T because we are not nurturing in our people moral and ethical values—at home or in schools. Many have no moral compass. Conscience formation is critical if we are to build a just society.

And each of us must step up to the plate to play our role. Often domestic violence is fuelled by the silence of many who see/know something and say nothing. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

Baying for blood will not fix, for example, our dysfunctional families so that men and women will develop mutual respect; it will not address the gross deficiencies in our criminal justice system. There is no swift justice in T&T.

Six-year-old Sean Luke was brutally murdered in March 2006. At a virtual status hearing last Thursday, the public learned that the state is still to get Sean Luke’s DNA results, 15 years after his murder.

Such lengthy delays defeat justice. We recall the statement made by T&T’s Honourable Chief Justice Ivor Archie who said at the opening of the law term in 2010:

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (second from left) walks with high court judges at the start of 2017-2018 law term.

“I am yet to see any persuasive empirical evidence that executions significantly reduce murder or crime rates generally … social scientists … suggest(s) that the certainty of conviction, and within a reasonably quick time, is a more potent factor.”

Inadequacies in law enforcement and a lack of effective preventive measures hinder progress. We call for those in authority to strengthen our criminal justice system, for example, by:

—spending more money on crime prevention, thus implementing some of the recommendations in the 2012 UNDP report Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security. The report recommended, inter alia, that T&T, and other countries in the study, should seek to achieve a better balance between legitimate law enforcement and preventive measures, with an emphasis on prevention

—improving our law enforcement agencies, ensuring that they are ‘fair, accountable and more respectful of human rights’ (UNDP), their detection and conviction rates, their forensic capabilities, and court facilities, which may serve to improve efficiency and processing of cases

—dealing with inordinate delays in the system due, for example, to court backlogs and high caseload

—developing and implementing effective witness protection programmes and

—dealing with incompetence and corruption.

Photo: A prison cell in Trinidad.

One hundred and forty-three countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The global trend is towards abolition. If we work together in T&T, we WILL find solutions to the many social ills that confront us, without having to resort to lethal means.

GCL is an independent, not-for-profit civil society entity, established on 2 October 2013, by activists and organisations from 12 Greater Caribbean countries following an international conference held in Port of Spain.

The ultimate goal of the GCL is to achieve the permanent abolition of the death penalty in every country of the Greater Caribbean and the creation of a culture of respect for the human right to life and the inherent dignity of all human beings.

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One comment

  1. thehandbehindthecurtain

    Of course the death penalty doesn’t work, the last time somebody was executed was over 20 years ago, if you don’t use something you cannot claim it doesn’t work. We need capital punishment to target murderers, kidnappers, gang members, traffickers, corrupt officials. Once we do this it will work. Imagine a gang boss and his whole gang go down and get hanged, the very fact that they are no longer alive will prevent crime, the crimes they would have committed(robbery, drug trafficking, illegal guns, extortion, rape, kidnapping, murder etc.) . It is not logical to wait for a murder to then hang the criminal, hang them when they join a gang, hang them when they do robbery with violence, hang them when they traffic guns, hang them when they rape, don’t let them become murderers, act before a person is murdered. Have the same trials etc. but after it hang them.
    The human rights that matter are those of the robbed, raped, kidnapped and murdered people, not the human rights of those who are doing the robbing, raping, kidnapping and murdering.
    I don’t want to hear no Pnm vs Unc, it is time for the politicians to find solutions, civil society is not going to take this anymore. We need a complete overhaul of the laws and the system. Our system allowed a man with 70 charges to walk the streets, that cannot be allowed to continue. We need quick trials, if the police has evidence to make an arrest then what are they waiting on, bring the case quick. Set a goal, how about this, trials in 100 days from arrest. When a matter gets called in court and the officer not present the officer should be accountable, if they don’t have a proper reason for missing then they should be reprimanded, repeat offenders demoted, and if necessary fired, because they are costing tax payers a lot of money and causing justice to be delayed.

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