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Britons Cry For Return Of Death Penalty

WHILE the Bahamas government, in an attempt to crack down on crime, this year made life sentences for murder mean just that -- "the remaining years of a convicted person's life" - there was an uproar in England when it was suggested that mandatory sentences should end. On December 7, an article in the Sun by Anthony France reported that legal experts in England who recommended the ending of mandatory life terms for murder were ridiculed as "diabolical do-gooders" by victims' families. "The Homicide Review Advisory Group wants judges to decide the length of sentences based on each individual case," France reported. "It argued that the current system -- where mercy killings and serial murders both carry a minimum sentence of 15 years -- is unjust." The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge wants MPs to consider reform of the mandatory sentence law. A parent, whose 10-year-old son was killed by thugs, warned that "criminals will continue laughing at the law" if mandatory sentences for murder are abolished. The suggestion that mandatory life sentences no longer be mandatory, but left to the discretion of judges, opened a new debate -- the return of the death penalty in England for murder. "We need the return of the death penalty, not a watering down of life sentences," said a mother whose daughter was stabbed to death in London. "Yes, mandatory life sentences should be abolished," commented another British citizen, "and replaced with the death penalty." In amending the Bahamas' Penal Code, Prime Minister Ingraham pointed out that "the courts" -- in fact the Privy Council -- "have determined that the death penalty is not a mandatory punishment for murder. They have also decided that the death penalty may only be used in the worst of the worst cases." Although many Bahamians believed that the case from the Bahamas on which this decision was made was indeed the "worst of the worst," the Privy Council did not agree. Based on that judgment mandatory capital punishment in the Bahamas was effectively abolished. However, in its amended legislation, the Bahamas government listed what it considered the "worst of the worst" cases when the mandatory sentence would be either the death penalty or life in prison for various crimes. The death penalty was to remain an option for the murder of a police officer or other law enforcement officials, persons critical to the judicial system, such as the killing of witnesses, jurors, judicial officials, prosecutors, a murder in the furtherance of robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorism or other felony, multiple murders and contract killings. So what was seemingly taken away by the Privy Council was given back by an amended act of parliament. Other murders are punishable in a range of from 30 to 60 years. The only exception would be the conviction of a minor -- that is a person under 18 years of age. A minor would be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison after which "his continued confinement will be reviewed by the court every five years". With the mandatory death penalty removed for murder, government decided that some way had to be found to deter our criminal element, which under the protection of the various Privy Council rulings, was indeed laughing at the law. Therefore, the heinous crimes that did not measure up to the Privy Council's "worst of the worst" were to get mandatory life sentences. Life no longer means 25 years with more time shaved off for good behaviour. Life for murder means just that -- years of waiting for the undertaker to remove the dead body from the prison cell. In England, Prime Minister David Cameron stepped in to calm tempers. He assured citizens that his government had "no plans" to do away with mandatory terms. "The most serious crimes deserve the most serious sentences," a spokesman added. The same sentiments were expressed by the Ingraham government. It's a joy to now report the daily chirping of magistrates reminding lawyers that under the law they can no longer grant bail to repeat offenders and persons accused of heinous crimes. This must be music to the ears of law-abiding citizens, who have had to wait a long time to read such words in court reports. As for the criminal who might think he is being treated unfairly, he has only one alternative and that is to turn his back on his life of crime, reform his life and start making a worthwhile contribution to society.

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