Attorney General Dale Marshall (FILE)
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Hang on, says Attorney General Dale Marshall, the death penalty will not be abolished in Barbados just yet.
“I can say to you, Mr Speaker, and all of Barbados, that today Barbados has a death penalty and when this bill is passed in the House and passed in the Senate of Barbados and proclaimed to be the law of Barbados, the country of Barbados will still have a death penalty,” he said.
His comments came during wrap-up of debate of the Offences Against The Person (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which was passed in the House of Assembly on Tuesday evening. This was among a suite of bills amended to fall in line with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) June ruling which stated that the mandatory death penalty for murder was in breach of the Constitution.
Stressing that he supported capital punishment in “appropriate” cases, Marshall vowed that if the day came for the Mia Mottley-led Administration to consider abolishing the death penalty, they would first have a referendum to ascertain the public’s views.
“We’ve said that on every issue which Barbadians feel connected to, which is part of our legal, cultural, social and economic landscape, we will not even begin to think about changing any law unless we have consulted with the people. If we were going to say that the death penalty will be abolished, we would have gone to the people . . . .
“We did it in 1995 in relation to gambling . . . so we have done it. It is part of how we do things on this side of Government. We’ve had a commission on law and order to engage the public and see what their views are, but this is a very different thing. This is a case where the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that our mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional and it therefore falls on the shoulders of this administration to fix it,” he added.
The CCJ ruling is expected to affect 79 people. There are 11 people on death row, 62 awaiting trial for murder, and six awaiting trial for manslaughter. As a result, Marshall said the 11 would be re-sentenced and a hold had been placed on adjudication of the other matters.
“It must be a frightening prospect for us that we have 62 people who are charged with murder but that on the law as it stands, we would likely not be able to inflict capital punishment on them. I don’t want to get too deeply into whether capital punishment is right or wrong. I’ve always supported capital punishment, but my view on it is not every case that requires the ultimate of sanction that your life should be taken . . . .
“The problem with when you choose not to obey the rule of law is that it is like a wild horse and no one knows where it will go. So if we choose to disobey the ruling of the CCJ on this point, what else will we choose to disobey the ruling of the CCJ on?” Marshall asked. (SDB Media)