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Urgent call to dust off, prepare SVG gallows

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It has been 13 years since a hangman has been employed here, but news of last month’s execution in St Kitts and Nevis is sure to have the two occupants of the local death row nervous.{{more}}

Since Douglas Hamlett, David Collins and Franklyn Thomas were hanged on February 13, 1995, the gallows here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been gathering dust.

Hamlett, 39, was convicted of murdering Dominican OECS fisheries official Fanny Darroux on October 18, 1990, while David “Allington” Collins, 30, faced the hangman’s noose for shooting Kenneth “Scholar” Michael to death.

The youngest of the three, Thomas, 29, was found guilty of murdering Rudolph “Bra” Garraway on September 26, 1991.

Now, in response to rising crime, many Vincentians, from all walks of life have been calling for the resumption of hanging.

So what will be the fate of Shorn Samuel and Daniel “Dick” Trimmingham and the others who may soon join them on death row?

Samuel, 35, hacked 21-year-old Stacy Wilson to death at the Leeward Bus Terminal on December 11, 2006, as hundreds of horrified commuters watched helplessly.

Justice Bruce Lyle described Wilson’s murder as an “extremely brutal attack.”

In another inhumane and sick act, Trimmingham was found guilty of beheading 69-year-old Albert “Bertie” Browne in the Carriere Mountains on January 9, 2003.

“Hang them by their necks with a rope until they are dead,” said veteran attorney Carlyle Dougan QC, when he addressed the special sitting of the High Court in honour of slain attorney Bertram Stapleton held on Wednesday, July 30 last year.

As the region on whole battles with an upsurge in brutal murders, politicians have indicated their intention to beat the legal odds and snap the necks of convicted murderers.

In November, the Jamaican Parliament voted 34-15 to maintain the death penalty, this on the heels of over 1,200 murders per year.

Then came the St Kitts and Nevis execution of Charles Elroy Lapace; a father of six, who in 2006, was convicted for the murder of his wife Diana, two years earlier. He paid the ultimate penalty for his crime on Friday, December 19, 2008.

St Lucia’s Prime Minister Stephenson King just last week reiterated his government’s intention to resume hanging, saying that the island needed to deal swiftly with murderers who had exhausted their appeals.

St Lucia’s last hanging, like this country, was in 1995.

But that’s the problem, says Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams – exhausting the appeals!

“Quite frankly, the appellate process is what has obstructed, and affected, and impacted negatively upon the death penalty in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said in a recent interview.

Williams expressed his frustration with the Law Lords of the Privy Council.

In the now historic ruling in the Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan case in Jamaica, the Privy Council ruled that it was cruel and inhumane to execute someone after they had spent five years on death row.

In its judgment, the Privy Council referred to the “emotional and psychological impact” of prisoners who are left too long on death row.

The catch is, according to Williams, is that the Privy Council doesn’t seem willing to deal “expeditiously when they are dealing with the death penalty.”

Williams believes that the London based Law Lords are enforcing their personal opinion on the region and basically tying our legal hands.

This is why he believes it is critical that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) quickly becomes the CARICOM member states’ final court of appeal.

“It is critical for us as an independent people.”

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves agrees.

He has repeatedly made it clear that his government supports the death penalty, and the CCJ as the final court of appeal.

Both concepts are enshrined in the new constitution which should be brought before the population for a referendum before the end of the year.

Last week, Caribbean Community General Secretary, Dr Edwin Carrington said that adopting the CCJ as their final court of appeal is the best way for CARICOM member states to claim their sovereignty.

“What better way to demonstrate this action than for all Member States to adopt the CCJ as the Caribbean Community’s Final Court of Appeal,” Secretary-General Carrington said.

However, while the call for the resumption of hanging is strong, there are some who diametrically oppose this form of punishment.

One such person is Catholic Bishop, Robert Rivas, the Apostolic Administrator for St Vincent and Barbados, who called the Jamaican legislators’ vote to retain the death penalty “sad” and “part of the culture of death.”

“A culture of death can only be counteracted by a culture of life and non-violence,” Rivas said in his 2009 New Year’s message.

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