Member of Parliament Ralph Thorne. (FILE)
Abolishing the mandatory death penalty is not enough, says prominent Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne.
The Christ Church South MP, one of Barbados’ leading criminal lawyers, is urging the Attorney General to “get busy” and introduce legislation to fix other shortcomings related to the death penalty.
This included the utilisation of “degrees of murder”.
Thorne also said the time had come for Barbadians to be given an opportunity to decide whether they wanted to keep the death penalty on the statute books.
He was speaking in the House of Assembly on Tuesday as members debated the abolition of the mandatory death penalty as required by the Caribbean Court of Justice. After several speeches by members, further consideration of the matter was deferred.
“Even after this becomes law, we must not leave it . . . . This Parliament must find itself in the not too distant future debating the question of a system of degrees of murder. I think the time has come when the degrees ought to be extended beyond what we have presently,” Thorne said.
“At this point in time, we only have murder and manslaughter. There are cases in which [a jury] may well believe that it fits within the category of murder, but they go for manslaughter as a compromise, which is consistent with my . . . view that juries sentence by reducing murder to manslaughter if they don’t want the accused man to hang.”
He added: “And so, I think the time has come in this country, and I say this from a very personal position, that we ought to be introducing degrees of murder so that jurors have a clearer picture as to what they are dealing with. It could be first degree murder, second degree murder, third degree murder, and beneath that manslaughter and the other homicides by misadventure and so on.”
Thorne said the time had come to “move beyond this legislation and to progress the issue of the death penalty [further] under the Constitution, where men can feel that they are going to get a fair trial in the courts, and where the relatives of the deceased will feel that their matter is so respected that the system is willing to treat it with due respect”.
He also said: “We as legislators, we as parliamentarians, need to invite the public into this discussion because this is a discussion that has no political borders. This is a matter of individual conscience and individual conviction deriving from the state of one’s value system.
“And therefore the public must be and might be asked to consider whether . . . they wish to preserve the death penalty.” (SC)