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Fix law to resume hanging – Sinclair

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:15 AM

A Government senator has nudged the Andrew Holness administration to make changes to the law that will allow Jamaica to resume hanging, but that suggestion was quickly shot down by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.

Though the death penalty remains on the books, there have been no hangings in Jamaica since 1988. Hanging was halted in Jamaica following the 1993 landmark Pratt and Morgan ruling by the United Kingdom Privy Council that it is cruel and inhumane to hang an inmate who has been on death row for more than five years.

Charles Sinclair, one of 13 government senators in the Upper House, made it clear on Friday that he is ready to support legislative amendments that would allow Jamaica “to fit within the UK Privy Council decision in Pratt and Morgan”.

“If we have to establish special courts to fast-track and ensure that the hearings go through and persons are given justice, so be it,” he said during a debate in the Senate on a bill that provides significantly higher fines for offences contained in 40 laws that fall under the justice ministry.

“Whatever the amendments that need to be made, I will support it,” declared Sinclair, a prominent criminal defence attorney, to applause from his colleagues.

But his suggestion appears to be a non-starter with Chuck, who acknowledged that he is personally “against hanging”.

“It is unlikely that Jamaica will resume it. That’s the present status, which we are unlikely to disturb”, the justice minister told The Gleaner yesterday.

Asked if he saw any merit in Sinclair’s proposal, Chuck was blunt.

“No,” he responded.

But Sinclair, in revisiting the hot-button issue, recounted that the last time capital punishment was put to a conscience vote in Parliament, a majority of lawmakers supported it. “When you listen to the commentary across Jamaica, a lot of persons support it ... but it is not being used at all.”