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Mercy Committee overlooked

rhondathompson, rhondathompson@nationnews.com

Added 24 October 2011

In the jurisprudence of Barbados the function of the judge is to interpret the law as it is made by the elected representatives of the people, expressed as the genuine will of the people. The function of the Attorney General is to advise the collective assembly of the people’s representatives (as the Government) on legal matters, including the drafting of legislation in accordance with the people’s will. According to existing law, it is the will of the people that the penalty for conviction of murder is death by hanging. There is however, the prerogative of the local Privy Council’s Mercy Committee to hear and determine a petition for clemency, which includes commuting the sentence. This provision pre-existing November 30, 1966, anticipates the purpose of removing the execution of a mandatory sentence by the intervention of a petition to the Mercy Committee of the local Privy Council. It is an unfortunate tendency residual in the colonial mentality to assume, even after achieving national sovereignty, that every international convention is an invention that supersedes established local custom as inferior. It should be acknowledged that the existence of the Mercy Committee of the local Privy Council obviates any necessity for amendment of the law or the Constitution to remove the existing penalty for conviction of murder as the contingency of inadvertent initialling of a redundant international convention. Closer attention exercised as “eternal vigilance” should be paid to the provisions of existing law before jumping on international bandwagons in pursuit of every declaration


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