WHILE this country still has the death penalty on its statute books, the head of TT’s RC flock, the Archbishop of Port of Spain, Jason Gordon, says more must be done to ensure it is scrapped as the ultimate form of punishment by the State.
Gordon made this call in his dual role of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados, after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) recently declared the mandatory death sentence for murder in Barbados unconstitutional and a violation of the right to life.
The CCJ ruled on the unconstitutionality of the mandatory death sentence late last year, in a pair of unrelated death penalty cases from Barbados, filed by lawyers for Jabari Sensimania Nervais and Dwayne Omar Severin.
The Trinidad-based CCJ held that Section 11 of the Barbados Constitution, which gives the right to protection of the law, was enforceable, and that the mandatory death penalty breached that right, as it deprived a court of the opportunity to exercise the quintessential judicial function of tailoring the punishment to fit the crime.
“The CCJ’s decision is a step in the right direction but does not remove the death penalty from the laws in Barbados, so there is still some work to be done,” Gordon said in a statement of support for the CCJ decision.
“Every life is a precious gift from God. We are all created in the image and likeness of God and thus have inherent dignity. The taking of one life does not therefore justify the taking of another.”
In 2016, Gordon and the other bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) appealed to “politicians and citizens in our region to abolish capital punishment or the death penalty and embrace a restorative justice approach to crime and violence.
“A restorative justice approach focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both victims and the community. It embraces socialization, rehabilitation and reconciliation, rather than retribution and vengeance.”
In that 2016 statement, the bishops underscored that, “to reject capital punishment is not to make light of the loss of loved ones and the violation of human dignity and rights experienced by victims of crime. The pastoral care of the Church is directed first towards the comfort and assistance of these victims.”