Lack of respect for authority driving criminal acts
President of the St James Lay Magistrates' Association Claudette Bryan has condemned what she says is the growing lack of respect for law and order in Jamaica, which has resulted in brazen criminal acts such as the recent murder of a justice of the peace (JP) in St Ann.
"Criminality is at its highest in this nation. The man was at home, having fun with his friends, and this is how bad it is as crime has now gone into the home," Bryan complained, making reference to Monday night's slaying of 82-year-old JP and businessman Colin Corrodus at his home in Epworth, St Ann. "It is not until it reaches our door, then we bawl and say something, and tomorrow, it is like nothing happened."
According to reports, four gunmen entered Corrodus's home and shot the elderly JP dead and gun-butted his wife before making off with his licensed firearm. One man was subsequently held in connection with Corrodus's murder.
Prior to this incident, the nation was rocked by news in December that two gunmen shot and injured another man on the grounds of the Hunts Bay Police Station in St Andrew. One of the gunmen was shot dead by police officers in the ensuing firefight, while the other escaped.
Commenting on both incidents, Bryan said that crime has got out of control due to the lack of proper social skills and community-intervention programmes, as well as little respect for authority.
"When it reaches the stage where people pretend that authority does not exist at all, we have lost it greatly," said Bryan. "Law and order must be seen and felt and not just talked about. We have become too simple, too lackadaisical."
"There has got to be more programmes in the communities and talks for residents, and community centres need to be established so you can have different persons from the society coming into the communities and speaking to the people. Yes, you may not have the criminals coming out, but at least we can begin to touch (have a positive impact on) each other," she added.
At the same time, the Lay Magistrates' Association president rejected the notion that the perceived slow pace of justice in the court system has contributed to Jamaica's current crime wave, which saw 1,350 murders being recorded in 2016, of which 268 were recorded for St James.
"I do not believe it has anything to do with the slow pace of justice at all. It has to do with us as a people, our social skills, parenting skills, and how we have been taught to interact with each other," said Bryan. "No matter how terrible the situation is, we do not have to draw for a gun or a knife. Not because my court matter was not taken to the point where I think I was justified, that does not mean we must hurt somebody else," she said.