Mon | Oct 22, 2018

George A. Campbell | Let’s hunt and kill the outlaws

Published:Sunday | December 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
George A. Campbell

Perhaps a nationally traumatic terrorist attack on Jamaica would bring about the necessary shift in our Christian value system to permit more open acceptance for exterminating a certain type of criminal.

I would like to see 'shottas', dons, killer gang leaders (irrespective of age) and the criminal capitalists to be officially and publicly declared 'outlaws' - persons disenfranchised from the protection of sections of our Constitution and law, and, therefore, open to being killed as an act in the public interest, an act of common duty, if you will, by either the State or the citizen.

Admittedly, it is an extreme proposition. Let us call a spade a spade; it is not only about state-sponsored killing but also about the state itself proactively encouraging the public to such action! A moment's reflection will reveal a compelling attraction to such a scenario. There is no possible hiding place for outlaws once there are no limitations placed on ridding society of them, and with a state-sponsored reward included to encourage the effort of those so inclined.

Consider the realistic choices the gun-importing criminal capitalist or community-embedded 'shotta' confronts the morning he or she awakens as a designated outlaw. None. They purge themselves of Jamaica, or Jamaica purges itself of them!

The existing constitutional provisions and judicial processes to protect those not so declared will remain firmly in place. To be 'outlawed' in itself places the specifically designated individual and only that individual outside of the protection of such human-rights provisions and laws as currently exist under the Jamaican Constitution.

 

MULTIPLE LEVELS OF CHANGE

 

A system as described (which could be of fixed duration) requires multiple levels of change. The contradictions to be resolved, or circumvented, are formidable, with daunting implications for the average Jamaican. For example, any workable outlaw legislation, per se, would have to deny prior knowledge, or defence, or appeal to the criminal in question, who would be tried in absentia. Any recourse to restitution from the State or its agents would be prohibited, and private individuals who execute the outlaw will be held unaccountable.

Is it not ironic that the very mindset of the worst terrorists elsewhere in the world points us with some certainty to a paradigm-shifting solution for eradicating our own most callous criminals?

It would be interesting to poll the conscience of every Jamaican who loves Jamaica with the fervour of a patriot, as I most certainly do, to find out why they would reject outlaw legislation as a solution; the most likely being because we cannot overcome our Christian acceptance of the sanctity of all human life. I would, however, challenge us all to resolve the more rational question: What is there about the life of the outlaw to hold sacrosanct?

Let me address the very important question of who declares an outlaw to be such. I would favour simplicity, rationality, speed and trust over and above the architecture of our current justice system to settle this issue. A Troika Court of three would determine the sole judgment. Sitting in their capacity as judges would be the head of the JDF, the commissioner of police, and a retired High Court judge equipped with unfettered access to the criminal data banks - each of whom knows evidence when presented.

Let their verdict be based on probability of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence. Let our proposed panel cut right through the tangled webs of our jurisprudence and justice system with their learned arguments, evidentiary processes and exhaustive trials, as well as the twin evils of chronic inefficiency and societal corruption that keep outlaws untouchable and free. Each verdict becomes its own justification. Let us stack the odds completely and finally against the outlaw. At last.

I stand to be pilloried by some legal minds, but my layman's reading of the Constitution and specifically the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, when shorn of nobility, do not, in my understanding, make a court-imposed death sentence illegal. The challenge for the legislature would be to find a way to constitute the Troika Court to either pass such a sentence, or to create an alternative authority. Not so insurmountable, perhaps, as to totally negate the thought.

 

CRIMINALS KILLING CRIMINALS

 

I accept, because it is comforting and I have no contrary data, the commissioner's assurance that it is mainly criminals killing criminals, but that system is just too slow and selective. And I do not accept that it is mainly outlaws killing outlaws. We do need the zones of special operations. What is urgently required is a much quicker, more direct, more certain and far less expensive path to eradicating the outlaw.

Outlaw legislation represents a genuinely agonising frontal assault on our collective conscience and our cultural (particularly religious) ethos. This is the price that such a major paradigm shift on fundamental moral issues will, and should, perhaps, extract, for we tamper with them at our peril.

We face an unfortunate truth, therefore. Creating outlaw legislation cannot be about national consensus, which will not emerge even if public acceptance might be present. It will be buried in contentious arguments, rhetoric or silence; as honest, sincere and as soul-searching as these may be. Rather it is about political leadership dictating a solution.

Only the Legislature can remove the constitutional and legal knots that have 'protected' us since pre-Independence and, paradoxically, led us inexorably to our current state of perpetual peril.

- George A. Campbell is an economist and environmental management consultant. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and Oeg20@hotmail.com.