As Law makers met in Parliament yesterday to speak on the Offences against the People Act 2013, Hon. Asot Michael recommended that it be not legislated, but left with the court.
During his presentation, the attorney general Hon Justin Simon QC, who made the proposal, explained that application for review of the Act arose from matters pertaining to the over 17 year confinement of two teenagers who were convicted for the murder of a former customs’ officer, commonly referred to as the ‘dolly house’ murder. One of those men, Everton Welch was released in December 2011, after being confined since 1994.
Compensation is being sought by his attorney for unconstitutional detention. The Privy Council awarded Welch nominal damages, and sent the case back to the High Court to determine if 17 years was a reasonable time for him to spend in light of the crime. If time spent was more than necessary he will be further awarded.
According to the current Act, convicted murderers under the age of 18 will not face death, but be detained at Her Majesty’s Prison at the Queen’s pleasure; with periodic review of detention.
When the offender is above 18, if the murder is deemed heinous, the option of death arises. In such instances the Governor General would determine the manner in which the convict should be executed.
If the murder is not considered gruesome a sentence of 25 years to life is imposed; with cases being reviewed at various intervals.
The AG has recommended that changes be made to the legislation as it is currently written.
In response to the AG’s argument, Hon Michael said, “I Commend the Hon. Attorney general for his detailed and comprehensive contribution. It is a good Bill, but I do not believe it should be legislated here, but left in the hand of the competent court.”
Hon. Michael also voiced disagreement with the GG’s role; since she forms part of the executive.
“It is blatantly wrong for power to be given to the Governor General to determine how death should be carried out. This should only be decided by a properly constituted court. The GG’s role should only be administrative.”
Where sentencing is concerned, Michael alluded to a quote from Lord Bingham, ‘Circumstances of murder vary, so there should not be any pre-determination of sentencing.’
City South MP Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin, echoed similar sentiments.
At the end of the debate, the AG accepted Hon Michael’s stand, concerning the GG’s role, saying such matters should be handled by the judiciary.
He also concluded that the debate is timely in view of the spate of criminal activities affecting the nation. He commended his colleagues for their contribution and referred to the discussion as being thorough and emotional.