Balvin Leslie, Contributor
I would like to commend The Gleaner on its editorial of Saturday, September 29, 2012. I believe that this is an excellent editorial which covers three areas in which we, the general populace, have been tried and found wanting when it comes to dealing with crime.
We like to blame the Government, the minister, the police and everyone except ourselves for the increase in crimes. The editorial spoke to our refusal and/or reluctance to come forward and give information to the police; the unwillingness of juries to convict rapists; and the penchant of most of us to avoid jury duty.
There is the age-old culture of 'informer fi dead', where anyone who gives information to the police is labelled and put at risk. Sometimes there are good reasons for this level of apprehension but the police can do little or nothing without intelligence. Irrespective of what the minister puts in place, we cannot have convictions without intelligence to make the arrests, nor the evidence to convict.
Despite the lines available to pass on information, we still shy away from making that call. If we are afraid to pass on the information ourselves, we should be able to find a trusted person like a justice of the peace or a pastor. The fact is that as long of the perpetrators of the crime know that an individual has the information about the crime, that individual is still at risk.
UNWILLINGNESS TO CONVICT
It is the matter of jury unwillingness to convict which rubs people the wrong way. I remember an attorney telling me about a rape case in which he appeared as a legal aid attorney where a woman had been raped by two men. He knew the two men were guilty and suggested to them that they plead guilty, but they opted for a trial. He said he was so outraged by the heinousness of the crime that he did not put up much of a defence, but they were still found not guilty by the jury. He was rightly incensed.
We will all hang our heads and cry foul on the jurors who continue to release accused men but we will refuse to serve on juries ourselves. So when these perpetrators come back on the streets and continue their habit because they know that "it is only a little sex", and the jurors "have sons too", we call on the Government to put things in place to protect our women and children.
Yes, the Government can do something. It can institute harsher punishment for those who are convicted. I have no problem with castration for those who rape children and, yes, I still remain a firm supporter of the death penalty. I do not subscribe to the argument that it is not a deterrent to murder; on the contrary it is punishment for a crime of murder.
NEED TO DRIVE FEAR
Imprisonment is not a deterrent to housebreaking because houses are still being broken into. I submit that it is the fear of being caught and punished which act as deterrents. When they are caught, make sure that the trials are swift; do not drag them out for years until witnesses can no longer remember details and the cases of the accused persons are dismissed.
Can we introduce video evidence where victims of crimes such as rape do not have to come face to face with the accused persons? The same protection could be offered to witnesses of violent crimes.
In short, Mr Editor, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we can do to reduce incidents of crimes. Do not expect the Government alone to do it.
Finally, how about appointing me minister of justice for one month or just long enough to enact a bit of legislation which will reduce witness intimidation. It is simply this. If a witness is killed, the trial is aborted, and the defendants are automatically guilty. I know it sounds inhumane, but not any more so than the killing of witnesses.
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