Move beyond crime to action

Prime Minister Golding certainly got the logic right at his recent town-hall meeting in Montego Bay on the issue of crime in Jamaica.

Said Mr Golding: “If a man feels that he can commit murder and the chances of him being arrested are three out of 10, and even if he is arrested, the chances of anybody coming as witness to testify against him are two out of 10, and if they testify, the chances of him being convicted is one out of 10, then he is not even going to squint; he is going to commit the crime.”

Those hypothetical ratios are, unfortunately, not far off from the real numbers. Indeed, less than 40 per cent of murders committed in Jamaica these days are cleared up, which is to say that a definitive suspect, is identified. Specific figures are not available, but it is reasonable to assume that over the long run, a lower proportion of suspects are charged, brought to court, tried and, much more, convicted.

So, as we insisted during last year’s parliamentary debate and conscience vote on capital punishment, the fundamental issue was not whether Jamaica maintained hanging in its statutes. For perpetrators of crime have first to be caught and convicted in a court of law before they can be executed.

In the context of Jamaica’s crisis of criminality, there are two immediate needs: a credible and efficient police force that can investigate crime and catch criminals; and a justice system that is fast and fair and in which people have faith.

Despite the many declarations of intent and some moves to strengthen the judicial process, we do not, however, feel the same urgency for reform. Neither from the executive branch of government nor from judicial officers. Indeed, our sense is that there is a sense in the judiciary that it stands far above the fray and that to engage with juridical urgency would somehow tarnish something that is apparently highly cherished – judicial aloofness. Hopefully, such perceived attitude is more apparent than real.

Mr Golding in his Montego Bay speech called for a partnership that helps to foster a culture of deterrence, so ‘that when a man is considering doing something that he knows is against the law … he must be given cause to think not once, not twice, not thrice, but several times”.

It is not knowledge of the possibility of punishment that will cause that, but the certitude of being caught, which is where Mr Golding ought to concentrate his efforts.

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