Gov’t eyes life sentences

Responds to HRC report

In response to a critical report issued by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee this month, the government’s top lawyer says the administration will look into laws that mandate life sentences for all murder convictions.

‘The trend throughout the world is that this approach to defendants is being revisited, and in the case of the Cayman Islands, we’re not stuck in the past,’ said Attorney General Sam Bulgin.

Bulgin said the government plans to make a formal response to the HRC report.

The committee has recommended that the Legislative Assembly give judges more discretion in specific cases where a life sentence without the possibility of parole may not be warranted.

For instance, under Cayman Islands law, someone who put a sick relative to death to end their suffering must get the same life term as someone convicted in a triple homicide.

The HRC said such a law is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and that tariffs, minimum sentencing guidelines, should be put in place.

Six inmates at the island’s Northward prison serving life sentences for murder appealed to the HRC to hear their cases earlier this year. The committee said it’s highly likely the men would succeed should they bring their claims before the European court of Human Rights, and that Cayman might then be forced to change its law anyway.

The Attorney General admits such a change would not be without controversy.

‘There’s a social element, there’s a political element, and there’s a wider issue of how the perception is a government would be dealing with the people who have committed the most heinous crimes,’ Mr. Bulgin said.

Mr. Bulgin took issue with another section of the report, which warned the LA about mandatory minimum sentencing laws for offences such as firearm possession. Those laws were last revised in October 2005.

The HRC report said the mandatory minimums would require a 12-year-old boy carrying an air gun, who’d never been in trouble with the law to go to prison for 10 years, if he pleaded guilty to an offence under the Firearms Law.

‘I can’t think of an instance where that would have happened,’ said Mr. Bulgin. He said youth offenders are generally dealt with in a youth court, and that only as a last resort would they face sentencing as an adult.

Mr. Bulgin said he did not anticipate the report would lead to any changes in the mandatory minimum sentences.

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