Mon | Jun 14, 2021

The choice - bounty hunters or vigilantes?

Published:Saturday | November 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Crime is rampaging across the country. The Jamaican society cowers in fear. The murderers are in charge.

The minister of national security himself cowers in fear without a clue as to what to do next. He flies all over the place seeking suggestions, and we the people do not see or hear of any being implemented.

Instead of the Government and law-enforcement agencies putting fear into the criminals, it is the exact opposite. The Gangs of Gordon House quibble about how many murders were committed during their respective administrations. Pathetic. No capture of the accused. No probability of conviction.

There is fear in the police force because they can no longer act with impunity when they kill one and then claim 10 murders have been 'cleared up'.

The criminals are emboldened. The society does not have enthusiasm for a new maximum-security prison that might actually help to curb the ability of the criminal, while serving time, to influence and call for murders on the outside, make music, pay for drugs and other contraband to be brought to them, and pay for themselves to be escorted out to have a good time.

What does hard labour mean? For the criminal, it appears to encompass free food, lodging and medical care, and enhanced reputation and adulation from some in the system.

In the Wild West of the USA, the rule of law was dictated by the gun. An attempt to curb the violence led to the growth of a group of persons called bounty hunters, who operated on the notion of finding the lawbreaker and bringing him in for monetary reward. 'WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE' was a prominent poster of the times.


Legal sanction


All of this had legal sanction. In the United States legal system, it got recognition in the 1873 case, US Supreme Court: Taylor v Taintor, 16 Wall (83US366). The bounty-hunter system, with some modernisation, is still to be found in some states of the USA today.

The Government of Jamaica - and, particularly, the minister of national security - need to take a look at this option. Most citizens do not have the benefit of the Protective Services arm of the police force or of electronic surveillance for their well-being.

The young student from UTech is dead, her promise aborted. The farmer and his one-year-old son who was in his arms are both dead. Six family members were recently murdered in Hanover. Murders are up some 26 per cent this year over last year. All the members of the Gangs of Gordon House do is yap at each other like dogs in a pack while we die. All the divine intervention and ascribing the blame to the lotto scam are pitiful.

The ineptitude of politicians - and, specifically, National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who harbours ambitions of becoming prime minister - is jarring. People are dying. If the Gangs of Gordon House do not act to bring this scourge under control, they will forfeit their right to have any input in how the people will address the matter. Most of us are not prepared anymore to sit back and watch our loved ones get killed while all the politicians do is play football with the murder.

You won't optimally boost the JCF numbers. You won't purchase state-of-the-art technology. You won't hang those found guilty of murder. In this country, black lives do not matter, yet we are majority black.

God forbid, an uptown woman is kidnapped; you turn the place upside down to solve the crime. Worse, it's even unthinkable to consider what would happen if one of the ruling elite were to be killed by criminals.


Lives matter


All black lives matter. Mr Bunting and his colleagues should remember that poor black people have no place to run to, so one day they may resort to running at you. I hope their intent will be grounded in admiration.

The Opposition and their leader should take no comfort in this. There is no political advantage to be gained. The calendar year with the largest murder total ever, 1,693, occurred during the Golding administration in 2009. The JLP did not control murders until Christopher Coke and the United States forced Jamaica to face its demons.

Black people are left to fend for themselves. It is, after all, they and their families who are being killed - the bright ones, the young, men and women, the marginalised, the elderly and the voiceless. Nonetheless, they are us. We all deserve safety and security. The poor do not have drivers; they cannot hire guards. They are just left to die.

The Ministry of Justice has an integral part to play in the maintenance of good order. Why has the criminal-justice system been allowed to deteriorate so badly? Why is there no resumption of hanging? Why is there no sure and swift trial for the few who have been apprehended and charged? Why is the criminal defence Bar allowed to be as unprepared for trial as can be interpreted from the constant request for another date at the time the matter is in court?

Persons with Gun Court convictions end up getting probation. A person is accused of killing someone at a political event and nothing further happens. A person is accused of fatally shooting a passenger in a taxi; still unresolved.

Those who should support and send the message that there is punishment at the end are failing on the job. The crime situation in this country is inducing too much fear. A cornered rat will fight.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and mediator in the Supreme Court. Email feedback to and