National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, has lamented that criminals at times receive a ‘slap on the wrist’ when they are brought before the courts and has indicated that an example should be made of persons who commit violent crimes.
“The criminal code deals with capital murder. How many persons have been sentenced for capital murder? We need to get there,” Francis declared.
He disclosed that some time next week he will be visiting the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) to see whether the gallows are functioning properly.
“We need to make an example,” he stated.
Francis pointed out that he was not saying to bring back hanging.
“I am telling you the criminal code speaks about it – this is on our law books. If we as a people do not want it then we remove it. If it is there, we must implement it – that is all I am saying,” he explained.
He observed that people have said that hanging is not a deterrent to crime, but that is not his business since the law provides for capital punishment.
The minister also addressed the issue of bail granted by the courts.
“Sometimes the police do what they are supposed to do, the persons are taken to court, they are granted bail and at the end of the day they go back and do the same things,” Francis asserted.
He made the comments Thursday in response to a reporter’s question about the recent apprehension of an alleged serial rapist at Piaye, Vieux Fort, by residents who tied up the suspect and beat him before handing him over to the police.
An arrest warrant had been issued for the suspect in May this year after he failed to make a court appearance on a rape charge for which bail had been granted.
While declaring that he was not criticising the judiciary, Francis spoke of the need for all of the systems – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary to work together.
“One person can’t be doing one thing and the other doing another thing,” the former Deputy Police Commissioner explained.
He told reporters that some of the persons in the judiciary must understand that they live in Saint Lucia.
“They have heard the facts, they have seen what is happening. When you bring somebody before a magistrate or a judge for a firearm offence, we understand the number of firearms that are being used here and persons getting a slap on the wrist and getting away,” the minister observed.
He noted that police officers are risking their lives.
Francis recalled this week’s incident on Riverside Road where an off duty police officer in civilian clothing was shot at when he went after a gunman after a citizen raised an alarm.
According to reports, the gunman opened fire after the officer identified himself and ordered the suspect to stop.
The officer, who was unhurt in the incident, returned fire and the gunman fled.
It was not clear whether the assailant had been hit.
Francis also made reference to another recent incident in which a Security Guard was shot and killed by bandits outside the Caribbean Cinemas complex at Choc Estate.