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Speaker calls for death penalty

Following the shooting deaths of two children and a woman in two separate incidents in Nassau Village over the course of a week, Speaker of the House of Assembly and area representative Halson Moultrie yesterday called for the resumption of the death penalty.

“Capital punishment should be enforced,” Moultrie told The Nassau Guardian.

“That’s my position on it. I don’t expect that we will ever get a final appeal from the Privy Council that says or supports the death penalty. In the United Kingdom, the death penalty was abolished in the mid ‘70s…but the Court of Appeal is not our final court of appeal in The Bahamas. We go to the Privy Council.

“The Privy Council would justify and try to put different levels on the severity of the crime, as if someone’s life is less valuable than the other based on the seriousness of the criminal event. I don’t support that at all.”

Moultrie continued, “I believe that if the laws are on the books, they should be enforced. Now, I believe that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty and they should be given the opportunity to exhaust all of their legal options and all of their appeals, but when they have exhausted all of those appeals, if the verdict remains guilty of murder they should be put to death.

“If you take someone’s life, you should be, and understand that your life will be taken.” 

On Monday, Alicia Sawyer, 30, and her eight-year-old daughter, Ednique Wallace, were found shot to death in a home.

The week before, seven-year-old Reyes Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting, police said.

Police do not think the two matters are connected.

A spike in murders often results in cries from various sectors for hangings to take place once again. 

The Bahamas held its last execution in 2000 when David Mitchell was hanged.

In 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional and left the door open for trial judges to determine what sentence to hand down to murder convicts.

In 2011, the Privy Council upheld the murder conviction of Maxo Tido in the brutal killing of a 16-year-old girl in 2002, but ruled that the crime did not warrant execution.

Even though they called the murder appalling, the law lords of the Privy Council determined that the murder did not fall into the “worst of the worst” or the “rarest of the rare” category of murder.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has made it clear that he is a “strong advocate of hanging”.

“I have no reservation about hanging you and moving on,” he said in 2018.

In opposition, Minnis said in Parliament that the necks of “murderous scumbags” should be “popped”.

He also promised while in opposition that if elected, his administration would hold a referendum on the death penalty. 

Despite stating last year that he expected the government to deal with the issue before the end of 2019, Attorney General Carl Bethel said at the time that the government had no plans to hold a referendum to enact constitutional changes to preserve capital punishment.

Noting the potential for loud international backlash if the Minnis administration ever moved on the matter, Bethel said, “The views of loud elements and strong opinions in the international community are noted and respected, but The Bahamas remains a sovereign state.”

Yesterday, the House speaker also called for “systemic change” in the country’s criminal justice system. 

“We need to enforce the laws in respect to illegal firearms,” Moultrie said.

“I think we need take it a step further now. I think we need to go after the illegal guns. We need to have a dragnet. This island is only seven by 21. If we can lock down the island for COVID, and stop the movement of people spreading the COVID, we could certainly lock down this island in a dragnet and try to recover as many illegal firearms as possible and prosecute persons who are illegally bringing in firearms into this country. Make examples out of them.” 

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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