Opinion: “The Fight Against Crime Continues”

April 14, 2014

[Opinion column written by OBA Senator Jeff Baron, Junior Minister of National Security & Legal Affairs]

I hope Bermudians noticed, amid the clamour of the Budget Debate, that an Amendment to the Criminal Code was also passed to deal with a legal loophole pointed out by the Privy Council in London when they heard appeals against the sentencing of two murderers last year.

Both men had the minimum sentences for which they were jailed reduced – because our law says that minimum sentences for premeditated murder should not exceed 25 years, while minimum sentences for “simple” murder should not go beyond 15 years. The amendments remove these limitations, granting judges greater freedom in fixing an appropriate sentence.

I want to comment on two aspects of this legislation.

First, the public were rightly outraged about what they saw as a failure of the law. The crimes of these two men were wicked and horrifying. The sentences of several other killers currently behind bars have also been affected by the Privy Council’s ruling.

The community finds it hard to understand that people sentenced to life imprisonment should be able to apply for parole after a much shorter period than seems right in the circumstances of the crimes committed. The Government agrees.

So these amendments are a great example of the Government listening to the people, and working to get their wishes taken care of efficiently and quickly.

The amendments will allow a sentencing judge to set a tariff that he or she feels is appropriate in the circumstances of the case, not have a sentence dictated to them by the law. Premeditated murder has been removed as a crime in its own right, but premeditation is now to be taken into account by sentencing judges as an aggravating factor.

The amendments also provide additional penalties for gang leadership and committing crimes that fall under the definition of unlawful gang activity. At the moment, the additional penalties the law allows just aren’t heavy enough. They don’t get gang crime offenders off the streets for long enough either to eliminate the threat they pose or to deter them and others from re-offending. This Bill changes that.

I think the Government has done a good job with this legislation. The changes brought about by this Bill reflect the seriousness with which we, like the public, view crime in the community.

The second aspect of the Bill I want to comment on is the speed with which it has been brought before the legislature. Even former Attorney General Kim Wilson commended the Government during the debate for getting the legislation into the House so quickly. I’d like to pay tribute to the Attorney-General, who ensured the matter was addressed at speed, and his team in Chambers, which worked very hard to get this legislation prepared.

It’s doubly good going, I’d say, because of the very high volume of work they are having to deal with at the moment. This volume, of course, is the result of a new government trying its best to do a good job for Bermuda – fighting to beat crime, fighting to get Bermuda back on its economic feet and fighting to correct the social ills that have crept into our system in the last few years.

- Jeff Baron

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Category: All, Crime, News, Politics

Comments (3)

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  1. Motto of the story says:

    These local government amendments will do nothing the privy council has spoken, any future murderer, with a good lawyer!, will on appeal have his or her sentence reduced to the precedence set by the recent reductions in sentencing. The privy council is the highest court for overseas territories although their rulings are not binding, they are very persuasive. This move by the Government is a necessary pr stunt.

  2. hmmm says:

    “The privy council is the highest court for overseas territories although their rulings are not binding, they are very persuasive”

    So they are not binding, therefore do not have to be followed. Your point is moot ! This is a good change.

  3. Bermuda…if you ever hire another Canadian police commissioner I will personally…formally object…and present my reason…