By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
BISHOP Simeon Hall yesterday said the country is in a crime “crisis,” as he called for a stricter enforcement of the country’s crime laws and for the removal of “some people from civilised society” if the death penalty cannot be enforced in the country.
Expressing his “ambivalence” over capital punishment, Bishop Hall, pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church, said that “if we’re not going to hang, we need a similarly strong message” to criminals who he said are merely “turning up their noses” at the government’s crime fighting efforts.
Bishop Hall dismissed assertions that the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) needs outside help in the fight against crime, as he said that “we created these things ourselves, and we should find the wherewithal to deal with them internally.”
However, Bishop Hall said while police “are doing their best,” the RBPF is “being overwhelmed by a spirit of murder which dominates the country”.
Similarly, former Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Thompson dismissed assertions that the enforcement of capital punishment would serve as an effective remedy to crime, stating that the death sentence will not be enforced “unless we get rid of the Privy Council”.
Saying that Bahamians should “forget about capital punishment,” Mr Thompson instead called for a stricter enforcement of the country’s laws, so much so that persons charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison remain in custody for the rest of their lives, “not just some years and you let them out.”
The statements by both men come after a recent spate of murders over the past few weeks, which made November the bloodiest month of 2016.
According to The Tribune’s records, 13 people were murdered in November, compared to 10 in October, and six in September. Despite a spate of killings over the past few days, murders have trended down compared to 2015, which set a homicide record of 146 homicides.
According to The Tribune’s records, the murder toll stands at 100 for the year, compared to the 137 recorded up to this point in 2015.
Given the country’s crime woes, many have called for the death penalty to be enforced, in the hope that it would serve as an effective deterrent to criminal activity, particularly for such serious offences as murder.
However, the London-based Privy Council has served as an obstacle to the Bahamas carrying out the death penalty, after ruling in 2006 that the mandatory death sentence for murder was unconstitutional.
“The criminals are not afraid of the existing gun laws, of our court system nor the police,” Bishop Hall told The Tribune when contacted. “Thus they break the law with impunity. If we’re not going to hang, we need a similar strong message to would-be criminals. I think we need to double the gun possession laws, the gun possession penalties, and take some people away from civilised society. That’s how I feel.
“Most of the criminals are known to police. Some criminals now know that they can beat the system, and in spite of what the best of us do, criminals are turning up their nose at all of our pronouncements.
“I have some ambivalence about the death penalty, but I think some people obviously shouldn’t be amongst civilised society. One time ago they used to rob you and then run away. These set rob you, rape you, then shoot you and take your car. So we’re in a crisis man.”
He added: “...I sympathise with (National Security Minister) Dr Bernard Nottage, but we might as well admit it, we’re in a crisis. Police, they’re doing their best. But I think they’re being overwhelmed by a spirit of murder which dominates the country.”
Meanwhile, Mr Thompson said calls for the enforcement of capital punishment are pointless so long as the Privy Council remains this country’s final court of appeal.
“People talk about capital punishment - we’re not going to have capital punishment in this country unless we get rid of the Privy Council,” he said. “What we should do is persons charged with murder and sentenced for life, make it life, not just some years and you let them out.”
“The police have shown that they’re doing a very good job in detection of these murders,” Mr Thompson continued. “It appears that the motives are not just occasional robbery, but many times it’s drug related or gang related. And that is going to continue until the police have gotten all those people in custody, we have quick trials with convictions and we get them in jail.
Mr Thompson also said the government would be better served by “investing money” in anti-gun smuggling efforts, as well as rewarding persons who can provide information on gun smuggling rings.
Mr Thompson said the “only outside help” the government should look for should be from firearms forensic specialists.
“We need people who, every gun on the street that we pick up, should be checked against scenes of crime,” he said.
“We have to invest money for information on the importation of firearms. I think that any person who could give information about guns coming into the country, should be given a big reward, particularly if we could get the guns and get the people bringing in the guns.”