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Bacchus-Browne says death penalty still lawful in SVG

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The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association has joined the debate on the death penalty and its implications for how citizens will vote in the November constitutional referendum.{{more}}

In fact, president of the association, Kay Bacchus-Browne, described recent comments by the head of the Constitution Reform Committee (CRC) Parnel Campbell as “politically expedient”.

Additionally, she cautioned political spokespersons on how they criticise the judiciary, given what the profession sees as the potential for bringing its independence into disrepute.

Bacchus-Browne issued a Press statement this week to “address certain misstatements and misinformation concerning the death penalty and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) re the proposed constitution” for the country.

In what appeared to be a direct reference to comments made by the former Attorney General and head of the CRC that “… the Privy Council has abolished the death penalty in St. Vincent,” and “…unless you vote yes you better say goodbye to hanging”. Bacchus-Browne said:

“Nowhere in the new proposed constitution I have seen does it say the penalty for murder shall be death by hanging and no other penalty.

“The death penalty has not been abolished by the Privy Council. It is still legal in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Commenting eight days after Campbell’s statements on the death penalty at the commissioning of the new South Rivers Cemetery, the Bar head stated:

“It was our own Court of Appeal, led by our own His Lordship Adrian Saunders, who abolished the automatic death penalty, not the Privy Council.

“The very same Justice Adrian Saunders sits on the CCJ.

“The same proposed constitution contemplates the replacing of the Privy Council by the CCJ.

“It is not expected that the CCJ will over rule itself regarding the need for proper sentencing procedure for capital offences. It is, therefore, wholly untrue to say that the Privy Council has totally abolished the death penalty.”

The attorney noted that while it was true that “most persons wanted to retain the death penalty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” it did not mean they were opposed to “the present status, which has obtained since 1998 after Hughes and Spence”.

“Most persons are not opposed to sentencing hearings to determine if the death penalty should be imposed,” she said.

“Remember it is our own CCJ who abolished the automatic death penalty! The slogan ‘unless you vote yes better you say goodbye to hanging’ is really political expediency.”

If the proposed constitution is approved in the November 25 vote, Government plans to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as the country’s final court of appeal.

Also denouncing the comments made by Campbell was head of the SVG Human Rights Association Nicole Sylvester.

In a press release Tuesday she described Campbell’s statement a blatant untruth, which was unfortunate and very disturbing.

“One should expect that the role of the chair of the Constitutional Reform Committee is to ensure that he is objective and should not in any way seek to influence the public to vote either for or against the proposed constitution,” she said.

“The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association continues to applaud our High Court judges and justices of appeal, who through our then Chief Justice and Justice of Appeal Adrian Saunders have given the entire OECS a well reasoned judgment on how to approach sentencing in capital cases. The death penalty has not been abolished by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or our Court Appeal.”

Sylvester added that her association considers it contemptuous for individuals to assault the court by way of misstatements and untruths. (JJ)

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