“Bring the Death Penalty Back” – We Can’t…

April 11, 2010

hangmans-nooseFollowing the recent spate of shootings, talk of bringing back the death penalty has surfaced quite a lot amongst locals.

Any talk of bringing executions back is hypothetical…as we cannot institute the death penalty as long as we remain a British Territory.

Irrespective of what political party is in power, Bermuda cannot legally have a death penalty law, let alone actually execute anyone, unless we go fully independent.

A referendum on independence was held on August 16, 1995. Over 58% of the electorate took part in the referendum, with over 73% of Bermudians voting against independence.

The death penalty in Britain was last used in 1964, abolished for all but treason and piracy in 1965, and abolished for all crimes in 1998. The death penalty was maintained across many of Britain’s overseas territories, and the British Foreign Office pledged to abolish it across all British territories.

In 1991, the British government abolished capital punishment for murder by Order in Council in terrorities including Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Caymans, Montserrat and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Bermuda was not included as our increased autonomy prevented the UK from doing so.

In a 1999 white paper on Overseas Territories by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs they stated:

The only Overseas Territory which has retained the death penalty for murder is Bermuda, though the last time it was carried out there was in 1977 [twice].

Since then, of a small number of death sentences handed down for premeditated murder, only one was not reduced on appeal to a lesser conviction not carrying the death penalty; and that case was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.

We have raised our concerns with the Government of Bermuda about the continuing existence of capital punishment for murder.

We hope that the Bermuda legislature will take early steps towards removing this punishment from the statute book.

Bermuda’s degree of constitutional autonomy prevents us from imposing the abolition of the death penalty there by Order in Council.

But if local action is not taken, we will consider whether to impose abolition by means of an Act of Parliament.

We also expect all Overseas Territories to remove capital punishment for treason and piracy from their statute books

As a result, in December 1999 the Bermudian government introduced domestic legislation making capital punishment after an eight-hour debate in the House of Assembly, and a vote so narrow that the chairman had to use his casting vote to decide the issue.

Bermuda holds the dubious distinction of having carried out the last executions under British rule worldwide.

“Buck” Burrows confessed to shooting and killing Governor Sir Richard Sharples and his ADC Captain Hugh Sayers. Larry Tacklyn was was convicted of the Shopping Centre killings carried out 6 months earlier.

In April 1976 they were both sentenced to death, and were hung during the early hours of December 1st 1977 within the walls of Casemates Prison and laid to rest in unmarked graves. Days of rioting followed…

Burrows and Tacklyn were the last people executed under British rule worldwide, and unless the law undergoes drastic change, could remain so as the British Government’s position is that the death penalty is inhumane.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Mike says:

    Inhumane or not, you cannot have a ‘final’ step that is subject to the whims and idiosyncrasies of humans on a jury.

    One error of judgement is all it takes.

  2. NotScared says:

    I sit here in utter awe at the way we have rewarded and continue to reward bad behaviour in my beloved country by allowing people to live after commiting such a terrible act such as murder. I sat here the other night and watched a local television program with some former inmates that were paneled to speak out on the plight of this recent violence in Bermuda. What really got to me was that at the start of the program they were all meek and just stating what it was like for there journey while incarcerated, by the end of the program they were loud and braggadocios of some of there exploits before there incarceration.

    Well it is my feeling that if we can’t hang them I feel we can make it very difficult for them while under the ward of the state and here are some sugestions:

  3. Heidi says:

    They have no right to take a life, and neither do we. Murder is murder. I do not believe in the death penalty. Life imprisonment, should be LIFE imprisonment. NO possibility of release. Laws need to be changed and updated, and appropriate sentences need to be given. Our courts are far too lenient.

    • AppleFanboi says:

      How is that, Heidi? It’s neither unlawful nor immoral to utilize capital punishment to take the life of a murderer. Murder is the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another. Tell me where the death penalty fits into that description.

      What’s ridiculous and immoral are these prisoners who are incarcerated for vicious crimes such as murder and rape, getting pretty decent living conditions in prison. Cable, free decent meals 2-3 times a day, abundance of visits from friends and family, and personal recreation time? Disgusting and an ultimate slap in the face of morality. What’s even worse is that everyday citizens are indirectly funding these expenses for these pieces of garbage, through no choice of their own.

      I personally believe the death penalty should be reinstated. The point of the death penalty is not to see how much pain can be unleashed on the murderer but to bring him to justice. Not to mention its effectiveness: a 100% deterrent to crime that guarantees the murderer will never be a repeat offender to another crime. Sounds good to me. :)

      I will agree with you though that Bermuda’s laws are complacent and lax, and need a drastic change for the better.

  4. NotScared says:

    I sit here in utter awe at the way we have rewarded and continue to reward bad behaviour in my beloved country by allowing people to live after commiting such a terrible act such as murder. I sat here the other night and watched a local television program with some former inmates that were paneled to speak out on the plight of this recent violence in Bermuda. What really got to me was that at the start of the program they were all meek and just stating what it was like for there journey while incarcerated, by the end of the program they were loud and braggadocios of some of there exploits before there incarceration.

    Well it is my feeling that if we can’t hang them I feel we can make it very difficult for them while under the ward of the state and here are some sugestions:
    1. Create chain gangs to do road works.
    2. All government buildings that are in need of repair use them for cheap labor.
    3. Hang signs around there necks with the offense they committed and parade them up and down the city.
    4. Lash them with the “Cat and 9 tails”

    I am sorry if those that read this think that some of the punishments that I have suggested seem a bit barbaric but the punishment needs to suit the crimes that people out here are commiting and getting away with little or no consequences.
    This too will make people think twice before they think of climbing into a window for that next fix, or to pull out a gun and shoot someone.

    • AppleFanboi says:

      Some interesting ideas you have on the matter, NotScared. I actually don’t find some of what you said barbaric at all. :D

  5. Heidi says:

    our society is lenient and complacent. We moan and complain but we dont stand up for anything. As long as we protect our loved ones and neighbors from taking the consequences for their wrong-doing we are just as guilty. If your son, or daughter is doing evil things against others, and you stand by and not only let it happen, but protect them, you are just as evil.

  6. Heidi says:

    If you take another persons life, you too are committing murder. Period.

    • AppleFanboi says:

      Look up the differences between murder and capital punishment. They’re not interchangeable in meaning. There’s more to all this than merely taking another person’s life.

  7. Casey says:

    I also do not agree with the death penalty and cannot belive the uk ever had it let alone the others under the uk rule. Its a sad case when some sicko murders a person but being british i am glad we dont have it here and belive it should be scrapped worldwide. I belive the best action if for the convicted to die in prison never to be released. I know countries have executed innocent people and would hate that to happen just convict and let the person spend the rest of his/her life in prison as surely that is better knowing they have to die in a cell never being able to go shopping travel e.t.c again. I mean clearlt the death penalty does not work as murders still happen daily around the world

  8. Davie Kerr says:

    While each case should be treated on its individual merits (or lack of them!), as far as I’m concerned, if you take someone else’s life your own should be forfeit: end of story. I’m not saying that the death penalty should automatically be invoked in every case: I am saying that it should be a option, albeit a drastc one.
    As AppleFanboi points out, there is a difference between murder and capital punishment: murder is the unwarranted taking of a life, while capital punishment is the extermination of vermin who have deprived others of the right to live.

  9. Davie Kerr says:

    By the way, Heidi, I note your two comments four minutes apart on 11 Apr 10: talk about contrasting emotions!

  10. MIsterMan311 says:

    A bad man feels his death as keenly as a good man.