Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Jamaica hanging by a thread

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The last person hanged in Jamaica died on the gallows in February 1988. You can be assured that it was a very rare occurrence and did not fall in any of the excluded offenders. Jamaica has a number of categories of offenders excluded from the death penalty: (1) Individuals below age 18 years at the time of the crime; (2) pregnant women; (3) mentally retarded; (4) mentally ill; and (5) elderly persons.

There are very few persons on death row in Jamaica - not more than six. There is no legislative reason why Jamaica has not resumed hanging. In the main, we are not signatories to the Death Penalty Protocol, as advanced by multinational forums.

The principal reason why hanging is not carried out in Jamaica is the cowardice of the Government. The first conscience vote on hanging was held in 1979. The then minister of national security, Dudley Thompson (deceased), opened the debate. In making the argument for the retention of capital punishment, he reportedly said, "We are in Jamaica where, to many people, life is cheap and one must lift that veil of terror and restore the smiling faces that used to be on Jamaicans." This was spoken by a man widely acclaimed as a champion of the black man. Freedom fighter from the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya and given the street name of 'Burning Spear'. Any attempt to portray him and his expressed views as anti- any class or race of persons would be ludicrous.

Ferdie Neita, then a government member of parliament, contributed "a new breed of man, a new breed of animal in society. The breed of animal is like a cancer in the society and must be eradicated." Hansard reports that the debate was lively and vigorous. The retention of hanging was passed in Parliament in that conscience vote across party lines by the margin of 24 for retention and 18 for abolition. Parliament then had 45 members.

On November 26, 2008, there was another conscience vote in the Parliament on the same issue. The vote was recorded as being 35 in favour and 15 against. There were 10 abstentions. Parliament then had 60 members. It is worthy to note that the current prime minister was absent on both occasions. It is to be noted that the JLP stated that it would resume hanging if it formed the Government in 2007.

It is most noteworthy that Delroy Chuck would, in his frequent columns in The Gleaner newspaper and on talk shows, set out the procedure that could facilitate hanging and violate the ruling by the Privy Council in the now-infamous Pratt and Morgan case. He made it seem so easy. Why was it never implemented? Neither of the Gangs of Gordon House care about the populace.


no economic growth


Crime stalks the land like a plague. There will be no economic growth of significance until this scourge is brought under control. Yes, I am aware of all the arguments that target our less-than-perfect justice system. I am also aware of the type of passion that results in domestic violence leading to murder.

The argument that hanging is cruel and inhumane punishment flies out the window when you are sleeping in your bed and then you are frighteningly awakened to look down the barrel of a gun or when your loved one's life is snuffed out mercilessly. A gun that has no redeeming value except to take a life, but when the cowards of Gordon House are not inclined to even build a new prison since 1962, what can we expect?

Who are we as a people? We bow to every edict from the European Union, the law lords of the Privy Council, and Amnesty International without asserting that we act in accord with votes, on the matter of hanging. Cowardice.

The result is going to be more jungle justice. Where the State cannot, or will not, protect me, I must find a way to protect my family. The murderers kill at will. The young babies, as young as 11 months, the aged and infirm, and the teenagers. The murderers dictate how we order our lives. We have elaborate security systems, pit bulls, illegal firearms, and an intent to extract revenge, if we survive the ordeal.

The cowards of Gordon House all have close-security protection. What do the people at large have? Where are the names of all those sacrificial lambs to the unrestrained murders? We are caged in our homes behind grilles. We must live in gated communities with not much neighbourly interaction. We must spend foreign exchange to feed dogs that we are afraid of. Enough already. The police may have, though only a mere majority, the intent to protect, but their ranks also succour murderers.

What economic growth? The United States Department of Agriculture, in a recent offering, says Jamaica is expected to be an economically poor performer until 2030. Would you invest in a business in Jamaica in this climate of unrestrained murder? You, the members of the Gangs of Gordon House, were elected to provide an environment in which we could not only survive, but thrive. Now we cannot even expect protection because some bleeding hearts speak about lack of opportunity for murderers. Not lack of opportunity to be killed viciously, coldly and wantonly.

Talk and talk and more talk, that is all we do. Enough. We must react now. Where is the DNA legislation? The minister of national security is useless.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.