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Dear Editor: Khan calling for the death penalty is engaging in doublethink

“[…] Mr Khan must know of the hundreds of people missing and presumed dead in T&T. Those are counted by the population as homicides. No perpetrators have been found. The hangman’s noose swings empty and idle.

“… Mr Khan must know that in the finding of guilt, the criminal justice system must first find a person to prosecute, and then be robust enough to navigate all technicalities in the law, to deliver justice.”

The following Letter to the Editor responds to a guest column advocating for the death penalty written by Israel Khan. This letter was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan, a legal advisor in Birmingham, England:

Photo: Hangman’s noose
(Copyright Morningstaronline.co.uk)

Israel Khan SC has been out-front recently calling for the death penalty to be implemented. Unfortunately, the learned gent has missed some fundamental issues. He has erred in his logic and his knowledge base needs updating.

He digs in like an Alabama tick on his position of 28 years ago. That indicates to me that in nearly three decades, his thinking has remained stagnant, despite gaining Senior Counsel (SC) status through years of legal experience.

What Mr Khan is suggesting—opposing Blackstone’s ratio—is that 999 people should be hanged, together with the one guilty person! (see statistics below). He is pandering to the emotionally charged and intellectually void for popularity votes/approval.

Catching the criminals

Mr Khan must know of the hundreds of people missing and presumed dead in T&T. Those are counted by the population as homicides. No perpetrators have been found. The hangman’s noose swings empty and idle.

And that is at the heart of Mr Khan’s mistake, and he actually recognises part of the problem. He wrote: “Vicious, wicked, evil and deliberate murderers should be executed while others outside this category, if found guilty, should receive a term of imprisonment up to life.

Photo: A judge taps his gavel in court.

The magic words are ‘if found guilty’. Mr Khan must know that in the finding of guilt, the criminal justice system must first find a person to prosecute, and then be robust enough to navigate all technicalities in the law, to deliver justice.

The death penalty must be finalised within five years. So says the Privy Council—the highest court for T&T.

Statistics

Success rates of detection currently lie below 6% according to the US CIA. Prosecution success, based upon well-known court statistics, is 1% of that 6%. In other words, 0.06%.

To put it bluntly, TTPS’ ability to find evidence that actually stands up to rigorous scrutiny in a court of law is less than 0.1% of the crimes that are actually perpetrated on the public—all of this is floating in the public domain for years. Less than 1 in 1000!

Let that sink in!

Now, think about it some more.

No… You still have not thought about it enough.

Interrogation Room

Really concentrate on what those figures mean for the public and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago—not the politicians; they have armed police escorts complete with blue lights and siren.

Mr Khan’s factual knowledge

Mr Khan very well knows of the inability of the police in bringing cases to prosecution and getting the job done properly.

He and his son Daniel Khan (former inspector of prisons) are aware of the woeful performance of the justice system, which has hundreds of people on remand in prison awaiting trials for donkey’s years (10 to 15 years seem normal by public account).

By contrast, another member of his chambers, Mrs Ula Nathai-Lutchman, has been out-front talking about human rights for prisoners. She won a whole string of cases at the appeal court, which showed up flaws in the justice system. This is also in the public domain. Mr Khan knows about all that.

Failure of logic

Mr Khan submits that for an innocent man ‘it is better that he be executed than to incarcerate him for life; for that man knowing he is innocent would live a life of misery and may even wish that he were dead.’

Photo: Police lights by night.

And in the next breath, Khan states: “Under our criminal justice system, it is one hundred times greater than a guilty person could be acquitted than an innocent person be convicted for murder.”

The latter is a false comparison, devoid of the applications of logic and must be confined to what is known as doublethink.

I am bewildered how Mr Khan recognises that the system might fail, and a few innocents get their necks popped, but that is a price society must be willing to pay.

This has been refuted by better legal minds than him (William Blackstone being the most famous) over the few centuries that the legal system has been developed.

Relics of the past

Mr Khan relies on the thinking of Dr Wolf Middendorff, a criminologist of influence back in the 1970s, as some authoritative reference. Mr Khan’s quote of Middendorf is from a contribution in the book Punishment for and Against by H. B. Acton, last published in 1971.

Photo: law books

The book is a historical relic that would set you back around US$500 for a hardcover copy—not because of true value, but because it is simply a collector’s item.

Mr Khan creates the appearance of himself being tied to reputable sources from a bygone era. Khan would do well to pull himself into the 21st century, where there are other reputable research results and opinions.

The philosophy of law and legal concepts about punishment have been baked into more balanced thinking, from 1971 to now, through endless test cases in international law and balanced applications of mature modern legal principles.

Mr Khan needs to demonstrate the ‘enlightened leadership’ he calls for.

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a Trinidadian living in England, an LLB (Hons) law graduate, systems thinking practitioner, and critical thinker. He is a product of two cultures and strives to be ethical and impartial in his thoughts and actions.

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7 comments

  1. thehandbehindthecurtain

    Why do so many people feel the need to get insulting when responding to another person’s opinion. It would have been a great blogpost without the insulting parts. I propose that we have a national vote with the following question “Should Trinidad and Tobago retain the death penalty in it’s laws?”.
    This would settle the issue regardless of where one stands and we could stay away from insulting people because we don’t agree with what their opinion.

    • Where are the insults, please?

      I am not sure that “donkey’s years” quite qualifies…

      • thehandbehindthecurtain

        Mr. Best when I originally read it I may have gotten the perception of insult, now after reading your response I flew over it again and on second thought must concede that although it is quite critical (”Alabama tick” lmao) there doesn’t seem to be any insult even in something as unusual as the part about the tick which I believe was what originally perturbed me. In our perceptions we are of course guided by our own experiences and deeds good, bad and ugly and we may not always make a determination that is 100% spot on. All in all my opinion is that it is a good contribution but quite critical, but good.

    • @thehandbehindthecurtain,

      You sound like a snowflake. What – you gonna say that’s insulting? I was gonna say ‘get real’ but obviously you can’t.

      There is a thing called mature criticism. But snowflakes call that ‘insulting’.

      Khan look for he trouble, talking a set ah dam nonsense.

      • thehandbehindthecurtain

        Let me explain a political principle to you, you see when you have to use insulting terms to describe other people to add to your point it’s not something that generally makes you look good, and in fact it distracts from your very point, and some people simply stop listening once insults are coming their way. Obviously the term snowflake is not being used as a friendly act so you just proved my position.
        Yes the death penalty is law, but the reason for the vote is not to make what already is law a law, it is to reaffirm it. You see the death penalty hasn’t been used in over 20 years, if that’s not dead law then tell me what is. So by having the public reaffirm that the punishment for murder in Trinidad and Tobago is death it would force our leaders to act on what the people told them to do.

    • @thehandbehindthecurtain
      >>I propose that we have a national vote with the following question “Should Trinidad and Tobago retain the death penalty in it’s laws?”.<<

      100% of dohtish people will vote for that. How? Because dey so dohtish dey don't realise that the death penalty was never abolished in T&T, or at risk of being removed.

  2. Mr Khan not only indulges in double think …he also engages in double action as he and his lawyer pals have been responsible for keeping the court system totally tied up in knots over the years..
    is it not the norm that when they are trying to get their reputations established they champion all sorts of human rights cases and now that he is a SC , he is reversing his position?

    i am also baffled in that he and his fellow lawyers are all ” officers of the courts” but they have not seen it fit to come up with solutions to fix the poor situation in the criminal courts with their colleagues in the judiciary..

    maybe the gravy train is too lucrative??