Prisoner Transfer: Bermuda Has Done it Before

April 9, 2010

[Written by Larry Burchall] Recent talk of sending Bermudian prisoners overseas to serve their sentences?  Bermuda already has a precedent.  In fact, many precedents.

In 1960, a Bermudian, convicted of murder, was sent to the UK to complete his sentence in a mental institution that could hold convicted prisoners. This decision was made between the UK and Bermuda governments.

In December 1960, 19 yr old Wendell Lightbourne was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1959 murder of 29 yr old British secretary Dorothy Rawlinson. Ms Rawlinson’s body washed up on a beach, with bloodstained clothing found nearby. Mr Lightbourne confessed and is reported to have said “Yeah I bashed her”

News article from The Glasgow Herald on Feb 1, 1960

The Glasgow Herald on Feb 1, 1960

He was scheduled to be executed on Dec 30, 1959, which was postponed to Jan 20 1960. The execution was again postponed to Feb 3, 1960 to await a psychological report.

Following the report of three psychiatrists that he was mentally unfit, on Jan 31 1960 his death sentence was commuted to life in prison, to be served in England.

Mr. Lightbourne was defended by Lois Browne-Evans, later Dame Lois, who had presented a case of diminished responsibility due to brain damage.

Although never charged, Mr Lightbourne was widely rumoured to have possibly had an alleged connection to the murders of Dorothy Pearce [59] and Gertrude Robinson [72] who were both raped and beaten to death in the same year. The string of three savage murders in 1959 was dubbed the “Murder Mile Case”, and Scotland Yard detectives were brought in to investigate. Both murders remain unsolved.

The transfer of Mr Lightbourne to a British Prison was fifty years ago, and therefore before the creation of the 1968 Bermuda Constitutional Order which created a new relationship between Bermuda and the UK.

In 1960, it was far easier to do because Bermuda was still being governed under the old colonial regime. What is now the Cabinet Office housing the Premier was then called the Colonial Secretariat and housed the Colonial Secretary. In 1960, the UK appointed Colonial Secretary undertook some of the functions now undertaken by Bermuda’s elected Bermudian Premier.

To our knowledge, Bermuda has not sent any other Bermudian prisoners overseas in modern history. But looking further back, it seems that Bermuda often sent Bermudian prisoners to overseas prisons. But, back then, it was called ‘transportation’.

As recorded in the Royal Gazette of 28 May 1833, a year before Emancipation,  Jemmy Place,  a “Free Person of Colour”, had been found guilty of theft.  He was initially sentenced to death. On 25 June, the Royal Gazette reported that the Governor had commuted Place’s sentence to ‘transportation’  Place was “placed aboard the Romney for England ‘on the 20th inst, on his way to Botany Bay in Australia.”

So ‘back in the day’, Bermuda was sending convicts, black at that, to Australia. This creates a curious and interesting Australia and Bermuda connection.

Jemmy Place wasn’t the only one. After Emancipation, on 2nd December 1834, the Royal Gazette records that “Sue, a coloured woman, for stealing from the dwelling of her late mistress,Mrs Redmon…….to be transported for life”. At the same time, “Joe Bean, a coloured man, for breaking into the store of C Nelmes and stealing a quantity of salt…..to be transported to such place as His Majesty may direct…”

Two and three years later, in 1836 and 1837, well after Emancipation, the Royal Gazette records that the government-of-that-day transported the convicted felons Francis Ashley, Hugh Sherlock, Thomas Wood, George Hamilton, and Martin Swan.

In April 1838, Governor Sir R S Chapman, thought that other options should be considered. He directed the members of Bermuda’s House of Assembly to consider other options “…instead of the penalty of transportation”. It seems though, that the Governor was not driven by matters of humanity. Instead it was: “The practical difficulties and heavy expenses attending the carrying into effect of transportation from this colony…”

Bermudian Historian James E Smith records this part of Bermuda’s history in “ECHOES OF BERMUDA’ S PAST. From Slavery to Emancipation and Beyond”. The book excerpt was published, in 2006, by CURE (Commission for Unity and Racial Equality)

It is said that history repeats. In 2010, is today’s House of Assembly and today’s black-led government seriously contemplating resurrecting actions taken in an era in our darker history?

 

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  1. Duane says:

    Bermuda’s first serial killer?

  2. S Brown says:

    I feel that we should either make Westgate a more strict or send our prisoners to prisions in other colonies that are not to Westgate standards.

    I am also puzzled about the question the author pose:s “In 2010, is today’s House of Assembly and today’s black-led government seriously contemplating resurrecting actions taken in an era in our darker history?”

    2010, is a completely differnt era that of the 1800s and 1960s. Yes, back them Blacks were severely punished for somewhat mondane things, but now our punitive system is not working regardless the color of our Government. What you do not understand is that amongst youth who are in the criminal lifestyle, prison here is like a rite of passage… it is not a deterrent, due to light sentencing and/or the conditions. We either need to change the conditions up Westgate to make it less tolerable or send our vicious criminals to ‘harder’ prisons. These are the only two options that are viable to punish criminals in my opinion.

    P.S. I do not think we should send them to US prisions. Many young black men try to emulate the US Gangster lifestyle, once in prison they will be exposed to real gangsters and one of two things would happen. a) they may become better criminals with more ‘street cred’ or b) They actually may find it unbearable and vow never to return to the criminal lifestyle.

  3. Starman says:

    Rather than all that negativity… why not educate our prisoners (forcefully if necessary) and teach them a trade so that some will have a chance at redemption, rather than recidivism, when they get out? It might also be a good idea to ‘encourage’ addicts to do the Twelve Step programme so that they might find themselves. And even heal. Think outside the box, folks, we all gotta change.

    • S Brown says:

      Our prisioners have opportunities to get an education (2 former prisioners took that opportunity to become lawyers) and to learn trades (many cedar sculptures for sale are done by prisioners). In my opinion the idea to ship them to another prision is ‘thinking outside the box’.

      How can you ‘forcefully’ educate someone? You can lead a horse to water…..

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