AG: Caribbean Court has not departed from Privy Council on death penalty

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.


Tribune Staff Reporter


ANYONE who thinks adopting the Caribbean Court of Justice as the Bahamas' final court of appeal in order to circumvent the Privy Council's "disciplines" on the death penalty will be "sorely disappointed", according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.

In an interview with the press, Mr Bethel said to date the CCJ has not departed from "anything said by the Privy Council in respect to capital punishment."

Last year while in opposition, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis pledged that if elected, he would hold a referendum on capital punishment “as soon as possible”.

At the time, Dr Minnis said he would immediately seek to amend the Constitution to remove the UK-based Privy Council as the highest court of appeal for murder convicts.

Dr Minnis said in the case of murder convictions, if the trial judge thinks the nature and circumstances of the killing merit the imposition of a death sentence and the Court of Appeal agrees, the sentence should not be appealed to any other court anywhere else in the world.

Last week, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said he does not know if the Minnis administration has made progress in its plans to allow capital punishment to be resumed in the Bahamas.

After demanding in opposition that the law on capital punishment be enforced, the Minnis administration has, since its election victory in May, done nothing to suggest it has begun movement on the issue.

On Thursday, Mr Bethel said he would not say whether or not the government is working towards removing the Privy Council as the final court of appeal, but said his office is focused on creating an "effective justice system" that will be a deterrent to would be criminals.

"Let me say this, courts are courts and anyone who thought that the Caribbean Court of Justice would become a short cut or a way around the disciplines being imposed by the Privy Council in matters dealing with capital punishment have been somewhat disappointed, in fact sorely disappointed," Mr Bethel said.

"The learned Justices of the Caribbean Court of Justice have not found any reason thus far to justify departure from anything said by the Privy Council in respect to these matters. The real question is though how do we secure a system of justice that is effective and through its effectiveness a source of deterrence to the would be criminal and also a source of comfort to a society. Right now we have a society that is living on the edge because of the fear of crime. Efforts are constantly being made to try and find a way to improve the operations of the system and the administration of justice which continues to be plagued by human and technological problems, but each day we get better."

Mr Bethel said the government is in the process of securing a location for a new court to focus on sexual offences and domestic violence.

"We are looking at a court to address the backlog of cases and old cases that have not yet been brought to trial but also to focus on sexual offences and domestic violence cases," he said.

"So that requires a criminal court, a court capable of accommodating a judge, the registrars and a 12 person jury and possibly a seat for alternates. So with that in mind we do have a very broad timeline that we are hoping to have something in place by the start of the new year but I need to confirm with the Chief Justice with how far along he has gone with that. There are two sites we are looking at. The first one is the eastern lower level court but I don’t think work has begun on that and it is too small for a criminal court, so we would have to do a switch and move a larger courtroom occupied by civil justice over if it comes to that. The other site being looked at that is a site the Saffery Square building, but it as to be reconfigured.”

Although the law allows for capital punishment, the death penalty has not been carried out since January 2000. That year, David Mitchell was executed for stabbing two German tourists to death.

In 2006, the London-based Privy Council ruled that the Bahamas' mandatory death sentence for convicted murderers was unconstitutional.

In 2011, after a ruling from the Privy Council, the Ingraham administration amended the death penalty law to specify the "worst of the worst" murders that would warrant execution.

Under the amended law, a person who kills a police or defence force officer, member of the Departments of Customs or Immigration, judiciary or prison services would be eligible for a death sentence. A person would also be eligible for death once convicted of murdering someone during a rape, robbery, kidnapping or act of terrorism.


rawbahamian 6 years, 6 months ago

If we are an Independant Nation then why are we still pandering to the Privy Clowns on the other side of the Atlantic ocean to make decisions in OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM ???


Economist 6 years, 6 months ago

Be it the Privy Council or the CCJ, you are going to have outsiders making decisions in "our justice system.

This is a good thing as small countries with populations as small as ours cannot afford to have it's own final court, both financially and for good independent thought on our system.

Even the UK Courts are still going to be required to look to the European Court in certain matters, even after BREXIT.

Sovereignty has its limitations.


Reality_Check 6 years, 6 months ago

Are you making the argument we should have remained a British colony because we are too small a nation to be self-governed? If so, this might explain why we are so vulnerable to the hideous agendas and bullying tactics of the likes of the IMF, FATF, IDB, OECD et al. which are slowly but surely destroying our economy. It could also explain why corruption is rampant throughout our government and civil service work force today. But who will take us in under their protective wing? Even the U.S. would like to free itself of certain of its U.S. territories today - starting with Puerto Rico!


Economist 6 years, 6 months ago

In the first instance yes, we are in many ways too small to be able to cover the cost of independence. So the idea of shearing a court of 5 justices with considerable depth of legal knowledge as our highest court, a court that we could not afford if we were to have it as ours alone, has considerable merit.

As for cost, it should be noted that paying for ambassadors, and a foreign service is very expensive. Last year the was a news report that Canada and the UK had agreed to merge certain High Commissions as a way to reduce costs of their diplomatic service so it is not just us.

The cost of sovereignty is high and therefore it has its limitations.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

Minnis is right on this ......... The Bahamas should have final control of any criminal case decision ........ Just make our Court of Appeal the final arbitrator in criminal cases.


TalRussell 6 years, 6 months ago

Comrades! Let's all lock we arms together to hope Jesus, the Comrade for equal and social justice for all, the comforter of the poor and disenfranchised, uplifting the poor out poverty - will down the road reveal how it is - the Red Shirts were placed in the position to return back to take over to govern over the Bahamaland, and for they's Fourth time? The same Comrade Jesus will have to revel how a justice system was allowed to jail a young's man's with an empty stomach - over a can of Tuna and a bag of Rice, and a small bag Rice it was?


bogart 6 years, 6 months ago

I will as a law abiding Bahamian support the PMs view in that we should have the final say but given the reality that there are few leaders and persons willing to also stand up and push in the same direction as the laws currently says is troubling. A referendum is necessary.

We still have the Bank of the Bahamas a bottomless money pit, highly qiestionalbe loans and not one single loan officer or bank offocial was ever found to have done anything wrong.

We have persons getting jail time for stealing a few cans of food or cell phone and getting jail time.

All the jail time for the pore Balck man while all these leaders of highly recognized influential groups, civic organizations and only the pore Black man going to jail and no white collar crime or criminals.

Have to play my KB and Bob Marley music.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

So true .............. Carl is not on board with capital punishment ..... I wonder if a Cabinet vote is taken, if Minnis will get a majority of Cabinet to support such a move ........... This is where the shit hits the fan ........ Lack of consensus in making the HARD decisions for the best interest of Bahamians.


John 6 years, 6 months ago

Well if ya caa’n hang people who willfully and wantonly and intentionally takes the life of another person then devise a punishment for them to feel the pain of their actions. One that is more effective than having them laying up if Fox Hill Motel getting high and fat off the taxpayer food. Get a glass encased podium and parade they ass in public every weekend. Allow the public to throw eggs, rotten tomatoes at them (although the glass will prevent them from gettin hit. And hang a picture of their victim(s) in front of their cell door. Taunt them some much about the deed they did. Taunt and remind them until they lose their minds and pray for death. But death will not come easily or quickly because they must pay.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

And do that on an isolated cay in a supermax facility ......... between them cutting rock all day


TigerB 6 years, 6 months ago

I think everyone is running away from the hangman's noose. But there are other methods, like the lethal injection. That is quite humane. Something has to be done. In 2011 it took some almost $15,000 a year to feed one... kect that is almost $20,000 now. We payin it

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by TigerB


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