Nassau, Bahamas–Researchers who studied the 719 murders that occurred in The Bahamas between 2010 and 2015 suggest the resumption of the death penalty, and constitutional amendments to make the Court of Appeal the final appellate court.
“Many of those opposed to capital punishment fail to understand that it was not created for prevention, but rather incapacitation and retribution,” said the study, “Solutions to the Murder Problem”, which was authored by Dr. Chaswell A. Hanna, superintendent of police.
“This fact is made clearer when one considers the fact that 47 of the persons charged with murder during the study period were previously charged with a different murder.
“The 2006 and 2011 rulings by the Privy Council discussed in chapter 6 have made it virtually impossible for the death penalty to be carried out in The Bahamas.
“In fact, Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley recently stated that unless there was a ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack (referring to the 2015 massacre in Paris), the likelihood of imposing the death penalty in The Bahamas would be nil. Nonetheless, there may be another avenue to explore.
“An amendment to the constitution could be made to specify that the punishment for a person convicted of murder is death or life (natural) without parole.”
Capital punishment has not been carried out in The Bahamas since January 2000. The application of the death penalty was included as an element of the overall murder reduction strategy, released to the media yesterday.
The study outlines seven key action points to reduce murders in The Bahamas: Punish the most violent offenders; stop illegal guns entering The Bahamas; establish a DNA forensic laboratory; dismantle criminal gangs; dissuade youths from using drugs; increase economic opportunities for at-risk youth and increase educational achievement.
The report notes that classical criminologists found that crime can be prevented when the punishment outweighs the crime. “The fact that almost 60 percent of persons charged with murder had a criminal record may indicate that their punishments did not outweigh the benefits of committing their crimes,” the report says.
“Moreover, sanctions for at least 47 persons who faced a prior murder charge (whether they were bailed or punished) did not have any impact on them being charged with another murder. In addition, the 2013 ruling by the Court of Appeal has made sentencing an accused to life (natural) imprisonment unlikely.
“Simply put, there are a small number of chronic violent offenders who are in and out of the justice system, who are responsible for the largest amount of violent crime,” the report explains.
Researchers recommend the establishment of a violent repeat offender program.
They also recommend the establishment of sentencing guidelines.
“These are non-binding rules that set out a uniform sentencing policy for persons convicted of violent crimes,” the report states.
“The guidelines facilitate a precise calibration of sentences, taking into account a number of factors.
“These factors consider various aggravating circumstances such as the offender’s criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, whether a firearm was used, and the number of victims.
“While not binding, judges must consider them when determining a criminal offender’s sentence.”
Researchers recommend new bail constraints for persons charged with murder.
“An amendment to the constitution should be made which specifies that no bail shall be granted to persons who were previously charged with murder,” the report states.
“For persons charged with murder for the first time bail should be set to at least $1 million.”
Additionally, researchers recommend that there be no remission for persons sentenced for murder or manslaughter.
Remittance means that an inmate may not have to remain in prison for the full term of his or her sentence.
The Swift Justice Program should also be expanded, the report adds.
“This program has not only increased the number of completed sentences, but has also increased the murder conviction rate,” it says.
“However, findings from this study indicated that there are still 217 murder cases pending up to the publication of this study which were committed during the 2010-2015 study period. This does not include cases in which suspects have died or are still at large.
“In order to further reduce the backlog, hiring of additional judges and the creation of more criminal Supreme Courts must be considered.”
Under the rubric, “Dismantle illegal gun trafficking in The Bahamas”, researchers recommend the establishment of a gun interdiction task force and enhancement of intelligence gathering capabilities.
The study was published under the authority of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (NADS). The Bahamas’ murder rate ranks 13 out of a survey of 142 nations. “Murders are heavily concentrated in communities which fall below the average household income line.
“[People] involved in criminal activities are more likely to be murdered than persons who are not involved in criminal activities.
“When compared to the United States, local detection rates tended to be higher.
“There are over 200 murder cases still pending trial for the study period.
“Juries returned a guilty verdict in 76 percent of the cases presented to them for deliberation.
“Most sentences for murder convictions included 31-40 years’ imprisonment.”
Hanna will present details of the strategies at the University of The Bahamas’ research edge forum in the Harry C. Moore Library at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.