Columns Rawlston Pompey 

COMMENTARY: Crime and Violence – Cat and Rope


When the several regional neighboring States came together, though sovereign and singly independent, they called themselves the ‘…Caribbean Community (CARICOM).’ When the leaders of several tinier Eastern Caribbean islands bonded together, they called themselves the ‘…Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).’ Geographically and culturally interlinked, there are festive occasions called ‘…Carnival and Crop-over,’ while social commentaries and music are called ‘…calypso, reggae, soca and Creole Zouk.’ Then there some exotic foods called ‘…Fungi, with a peculiar vegetable mixed-up called ‘…pepper-pot; …ducana, salt-fish and chop-up (vegetable mix); …jerk pork; …curried lamb and rice; ……ackee and salt-fish; …rundown and oil-down; …seafood pasta and goat water.’ While these can be enjoyed and palatably savored across the region, there is another side of life that people are impelled to contend with. This speaks to violent crimes, policies and responses.


Likened to the rest of the rest of the community, each island not only shares the same commonalities in culture, breathtaking sceneries; lush green vegetation, but also sea, sand and sun, yet sharing the same economic plight as they grapple with rising crime and violence. With a legal background, politician, former French Finance Minister and institutional responsibilities, intent on assisting policy and law-makers’ in comprehending the gravity of the situation, Managing Director of the ‘…International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, has shown regional borrowers of its funds the economic side for immediate address. She posited, …Crime imposes several economic costs, including (i) …Public spending on security and the criminal justice system; (ii) …Private spending on security; (iii) …Social costs from loss of income due to victimization and incarceration.’ She was at the time, addressing a ‘…Sixth IMF Caribbean Forum’ in Jamaica [Jamaica Observer: November 16, 2017]. However, seemingly dogged by the prevalence of violent crime, regional authorities have been focusing attention on stiffer penalties for gun crimes.


The Scripture edifies of many characters, including a notorious and treacherous one called Judas Iscariot.’ He had not only sold ‘…Jesus Christ,’ but also his own soul for ‘30 pieces of silver. Remorsefully, he took his own life [Matthew 27:3]. There was a notable man called Noah. Distinguishing himself by ‘…abiding faith; …unshaken spirit; …with limitless tolerance; …extreme patience and steely resolve.’ The earth had reportedly become ‘…Corrupt and full of violence’ [NIV: Genesis 6:11]. God intended that all corruption and violence shall cease. Bestowed with those attributes, and accorded spiritual inspiration, Noah built a boat, called an ‘Ark.’ Jeering and public insults were poked at him. After construction, the rain poured; …the earth was flooded; …the Ark floated with those aboard.’ There was no place to run or hide. The ‘…Corrupt and Violent’ succumbed to a ‘…watery grave.’


Crimes are classified as those ‘…against the person and property.’ Conversely, there are statutory offences or ‘…Victimless Crimes.’ Most are offences of ‘…Strict Liability.’ Many have viewed the severity of penalties being imposed upon ‘…drug traffickers and drug offenders’ for offences that neither brings pain to the person, nor death for victimless offences. This is particularly so, as penalties that have been imposed upon violent criminals had been seen or perceived by the public to have been disturbingly lenient. Seeking to ensure civility among the citizenry and civil responses by those that have been victimized by criminals, one of the founding constitutional principle speaks to ‘…Recognition of the law as symbolizing the public conscience; …That every citizen owes to it an undivided allegiance not to be limited by private views of justice or expediency’ [CO: 1981: Principle D].


The homicide rate across the region has risen exponentially. Nationally, it has risen to a startling ’19.’ These have sparked intense public debates over the growing incidence of gun violence [November 2017]. While regional youth have been blamed for criminal behavior, societies often created the environment for lawlessness. It is to be understood that for as long as communities are allowed to become ‘…Gunman’s Paradise,’ be they ‘…gangs associated or affiliated; …drug traffickers; or …drug dealers; or …turf defenders; or …gun-runners or gun-toting robbers,’ there will be constant echoes from their smoking guns, with a regularity of wakes and marches to public cemeteries. Even with warnings of severe penalties, crime and violence has seen many victims succumbed to untimely death, while other victims have been left immobilized and wincing in excruciating pain.’ The experience of Judith Wynter 62, then a patron at Obsti’s Bar and Grill, bears testimony of a raging gun battle. [Antigua News Pages: August 16, 2013].


That incident involved three youth, ‘…Shelton Hunte 26; …Trevon Francis 22 and Adrian ‘Yardie’ Shand.’ A bullet strayed from its rival target struck and pierced her spinal cord, leaving her permanently maimed. While gunmen may eliminate each other, innocent victims might be caught in the line of fire. Targeted or not, gunmen shall not be privileged to discharge guns with reckless abandon. If as illusory touted in some regional jurisdictions that ‘…gangs and drug-related violence,’ need not inject fear in the citizenry, with the rampancy of gun violence, the questions law-abiding citizens often posed are, (i) ‘…Who gains or who loses when suspected drug dealers/traffickers are targeted and gunned down? (ii) …Whose responsibility it is to ensure stable, peaceful and safe communities?’ Such may not be left to trigger-happy gunmen. If the ‘…Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke fiasco and deadly gun battles [Tivoli Garden: May 25, 2010], are allowed to shape official policies or law enforcement responses to violent crimes, then many regional States might be in for a ‘…Rude Awakening.’


It has been the mindset of many regional public officials that ‘…mandatory incarceration is the answer to curbing the growing incidence of crime.’ Mindful of the economic impact, the IMF boss said, ‘…Youth joblessness and high rates of violent crime continue to be significant impediments to economic growth in the region’ [Jamaica Observer: November 17, 2017]. This commentary looks at the ‘…Cat and the Rope,’ from the perspective of ‘…Crime and Punishment’ and whether it deters criminality, particularly, capital punishment and that which many Constitutions have described as ‘…Cruel and inhuman treatment’ [Antigua & Barbuda: CO. 1981]. Recently conversing with former Commissioner of Police Sir, Wright Fitzhenly George, he reflected upon his own research at the ‘…Hendon Police College,’ now renamed ‘…Peel House (Sir Robert Peel).The prestigious law enforcement institution was ‘…founded upon a modern and scientific approach to training’ [Wikipedia].


Looking at violent crime and ‘…British Jurisprudence,’ the conversation encompassed administering corporal punishment and implementation of the death penalty. Clearly not being facetious about the deterring effect on criminals, he vividly remembered the use of the ‘…Cat and the Rope’ in England. The ‘…Nine-Tailed Cat,’ speaks mythically to the lives said to be enjoyed by members of the feline species. It also speaks to ‘lashes as punishment for convicted criminals.’ The latter speaks to another instrument by which the penalty of death is implemented. Thus, when a ‘noose’ is securely and inescapably placed around the necks of convicted killers, they know that the hour has come for them to surrender a life of criminality. That which had often factored in the decisions, have been the ‘…safety and protection of society.’


An instinctive animal of the feline species, the ‘Cat’ has been described in many forms. People have kept cats as pets, gave them various names and cared for them as humans. Whatever descriptive phrases humans have used, or whatever else man has deemed cats to be; this article is not about ‘…man’s second best friend or other connotations. This is about two of man’s inventions for pain and death, the ‘…Cat O’ Nine and the Rope.’ It specifically looks at man’s inventiveness of instruments, judicially recognized for administering punishments to those convicted of serious criminal acts. Man has also invented another whip, made from the reproductive organ of the male cattle. With the advent and proliferation of guns, this is infrequently used. Social commentator, Dillary Scott ‘Mighty Cypher’ sings humorously to the painful experiences of a ‘…Fresh Water Yankee’ [YouTube].


When the rope is placed around the neck of condemned murderers, popularly referred to as the ‘…hangman’s noose,’ it had been judicially ordered [CO. 1981]. Whether it was man’s way of saying ‘…Goodbye’ to his world of disappointment and frustration, the rope or any improvisations, has been used with shocking and devastating consequences. Conversely, humans have found other uses of the rope. Frustrated and disillusioned individuals were known to have improvised with ‘…men’s socks; …shoe laces; …bed linen; …neckties and electric cables’ in bringing about their demise.  Seemingly overwhelmed by personal or domestic problems, ‘…a teenager and a pre-teen’ have relieved themselves of their earthly troubles. The sad cases of ‘…Alana Lloyd 18 and Jahquez Lanier 12,’ not only speak to human improvisations, but also to their worlds of ‘…despair, miseries, helplessness and hopelessness.’ [ANR: November 17, 2017].


Down through the pages of history, at the sign of life and first sight of light, natural or man-made, names have been given to babies; …communities places; …events and occurrences.’ When a particular ‘…nine-tailed whip’ was invented, some smart person called it ‘…Cat O’ Nine.’ Under ‘…British Jurisprudence,’ it was accepted as whip for administering lashes on the backs of persons ‘…accused, tried and convicted’ of specially classified crimes. However, before the introduction of criminal trials, the ‘…Cat’ was reportedly used against British Soldiers ‘…to keep them focused and in line.’ Thus, lapses in their ‘…military duties or stepping outside disciplinary line,’ meant lashes from the Cat.’ Punishment was said to be extremely severe.


Incidentally, research has shown that the first Criminal Court was established in England in 1788.’ British Kings were said to have been most ‘…Punishingly Brutal’ [1760-1820]. In the 18th Century, under the ‘King’s Rule’ offences such as ‘…theft of food; …clothing and money’ was punishable by death. Soldiers, adults and youth had suffered the same fate. Between ‘…October 1783 to March 1789,’ 7 Marines reportedly robbed Government Stores while on Guard duties; …7 were Court Martialled; …6 were found guilty and sentenced to death.’ There were no considerations to leniency or mitigating circumstances. All factors were considered aggravating, and since there were no appellate institutions, the convicted Marines were hanged the following day after trial. The seventh accused narrowly escaped the ‘…Hangman’s Noose.’ By turning ‘…King’s Evidence,’ he was acquitted [Wikipedia].


Centuries apart; dissimilar in nature, punishments descended upon convicts for petty offences were merciless. This may have been comparable with that descended upon the Eastern Caribbean by hurricanes ‘…Irma and Maria [September 6 & 18, 2017].’ For instance, indigent, destitute or hungry, ‘…picking pockets or stealing food,’ provoked the death penalty.  Subsequently, the penalty was reduced to ‘…lashing.’ The objective was deterrence. This was not to be administered lightly. Man had developed an instrument called the ‘.Cat O’Nine,’ a nine-tailed whip. Sentences imposable on criminal convicts were minimally set at ‘…200 lashes.’ As fate had it, Thomas Halford, seeking to satisfy his physiological needs, reportedly ‘…stole 3 pounds of potatoes value 1 Shilling and 6 Pence.’ He was sentenced to ‘…2, 000 brutal lashes’ [April 12, 1789]. Accused and convicted of ‘…Stealing corn beef, pig snout and curry to the value of EC$11. 95,’ Ronnie Joyette was fined $200.00, a cent he appeared not to have possessed. In default, he was given an alternative of a ‘…custodial sentence of two months’ [Iwitness News: August 1, 2017].


The judicially-sanctioned use of these instruments to inflict punishments had telling effect on the lives of those who were subjected to them. The painful and tragic consequences appeared to have satisfied an uneasy British population. The measures were seen as having negligible evidence of deterrence on criminal. After a while, likened to insect repellents, they had very little effect on the biting insects. Supporting such contention, research has shown that Lord John Russell, Prime Minister of England abolished the death penalty for ‘…horse stealing and house breaking’ [Wikipedia: 1830]. Toward the end of the 17th century, an enlightened public became provocatively concerned with ‘…hanging for petty crime.’ This had provoked public unrest, prompting successor Sir Robert Peel, then Prime Minister to reduce the number of offences of which convicts could have been executed.


In regard to crime and violence, there are two things of fundamental interest to people, more particularly, people who have been criminally victimized. These are ‘…Justice and Penalty.’ In this regard, many people have found both most troubling. Given the frequent occurrence of violent crime, many have reflected back on the era of the ‘…Dreaded Cat O’ Nine.’ This is about a ‘…nine-tailed whip,’ more popularly called within the British Commonwealth the ‘…Cat.’ Instructively, the ‘…Corporal Punishment Act 1949,’ [Antigua & Barbuda] was revisited in ‘…1953: 1956 &1967.’ The Act prohibits ‘’’flogging of females of any age’ [Section 15], but provides for such punishment for prescribed offences. Human Rights Organizations and advocacy groups around the world, have not only loathed the name ‘…Corporal Punishment,’ but also abhor its application to humans. In spite of scriptural warnings, their advocacy in protecting the rights of criminals has often provoked angst and ire in victimized people.


As barbaric as some ancient and modern criminal punishments have been, human behaviors continue to dictate the use the rope. Not only has there been rampant crime and violence, but also undeniable acts of barbarism. These are evident by the nature and gravity of criminal acts perpetrated against the innocent, helpless and law-abiding victims. While a person may be deprived of life judicially, it also provides four defences to law-abiding citizens in taking ‘…Self-preservation Measures’ when subjected to criminal attacks. Whenever the ‘Cat O’ Nine and Rope’ were used in the execution of judicially ordered punishments, they are legally defined ‘…instruments for inflicting corporal punishment or death.’ In many global societies, man has shown more of his barbaric nature, with little or no fear of punishments, whether ‘…incarceration; …corporal or hanging.’


Nationally, except for the abolition of corporal punishment for certain offences, it remains lawful for Courts to impose ‘…Whipping or Flogging in addition to any other sentence.’ This may have been inadvertently overlooked when the laws were revised in 1992. Starved of revision, the law continues to exist. Civility in judicial officers may have precluded visitation to the Corporal Punishment Act, Chapter 106. In penal institutions such as Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP), it allows for disciplinary measures to be taken, but only in cases of (i) ‘…Mutiny; (ii) …Incitement to Mutiny and (iii) …Gross personal violence to Prison officers.’ Whipping or flogging may be administered with the ‘…Cat O’ Nine tails’ with approval of the Governor General. Up to 24 lashes may be applied [Section 4]. The Courts are empowered to impose ‘…Cat O’Nine’ flogging for the offences ‘…Wounding or Causing Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), with inter alia, (i) …Cutlasses; (ii) …Knives; (iii) …Razors; and (iv) …Firearms’ [Sections 5 & 13].


The Constitution Order [A&B: November 1, 1981], anticipates that lives will be intentionally deprived. As with the Scripture, it also anticipates that those who have deprived others of the ‘…Right to Life,’ may also be deprived of theirs. Yet, hypocritically, human rights advocacy groups continue to cry foul of ‘…cruel and inhuman treatment.’ Most, however, are informed by the constitutional provision that states, ‘…No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment’ [Section 7]. The latter often runs counter to the feelings of people whose lives have been shattered by ‘…criminal victimization.’ However, carefully entrenched, it states ‘…No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally, save in the execution of the sentence of a Court in respect of a crime of treason or murder of which he has been convicted.’ Since it anticipates such penalty, it further states ‘…A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this Section, if he dies as the result of the use, to such extent or circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably justifiable’ [Section 4].


It is the knowledge and experience that many victims had been ‘…viciously attacked; …savagely battered or brutally beaten; … senselessly gunned down or murdered in cold-blood.’ Likened to the ‘Cat,’ that had brought immense physical pain, gunmen appeared fearless of the ‘…Firearms (Amendment) Act [2017] that allows for the imposition of custodial sentences. Unfortunately, some organizations and interest groups have often been accused of being more concerned with the ‘…rights and welfare of the criminals,’ than they are with the frightening experiences of victims. Many have been left ‘…traumatized and wounded; …hurting and fearful, while families are left in complete shock; …sorrow and grief-stricken.’ With or without foreseeable or unintended consequences, gunmen had brought down several victims. In a ‘…Hail of Bullets,’ they have died instantly.’


The recent cases of ‘…two female murder-victims Xavier Thomas 20 and Marie Daley 66; and two males, Babu Jardine 31, and Andre ‘Smokey’ Cummings Jr 27,’ makes the point [ANR: November 15, 2017]. Incidentally, the latter occurred just before the end of the ‘…Gun Surrender Amnesty and mere hours before the Firearms (Amendment) Act took effect. Global citizens, gunmen and human rights advocacy groups, are reminded that ‘…Whoever sheds man’s blood; …By man his blood shall be shed [KJV: Genesis 9:6]. While some nations continue to make public executions by shooting chilling spectacle, this also gives victimized people good reasons to advocate visitations to the ‘…Cat and the Rope.” This was often premised on man’s barbarism and heinous acts to other human beings. Such spectacle may have been seen when a Yemeni youth, Hussein al-Saket 22, suffered exactly that which the Scripture warns. He was shot in a public square. Then his bullet-riddled body was strung to a crane for public viewing [NY. Post: August 14, 2017].


In spite of the punitive measures, British authorities were said to have led the world in ‘…Punishment Civilization.’ While many nations continue to implement the death penalty, Britain had removed a number of offences that were punishable by death. Thus, by an Act of Parliament, the Death Penalty was abolished [1965]. The last executions were reportedly carried out in 1964. Looking ahead, the Act contained a ‘…Sunset Clause,’ prescribing an expiry date, ‘…To expire on 31st July 1970 unless Parliament by affirmative Resolutions of both Houses otherwise determines.’ It was subsequently made permanent [1969]. The abolition of the death penalty finally came by the enactment of the ‘…Human Rights and Crime and Disorder Acts [UK: 1998]. Modern civilization; …respect for the sanctity of life; …human rights and the dignity of the human person,’ had prompted revolutionary law revisions. These allow for, inter alia, ‘…defence of individual rights in (UK) Courts and compelling public organizations, including ‘…Government; …police and local councils to treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect’ [Wikipedia]. Regional law-makers appeared less inclined in removing from their saturated thought-process, beliefs that severe penalties hold the answers to a growing crime problem. Nonetheless, it appears unlikely that regional jurisdictional Courts will reconsider the use of ‘…Cat or Rope.’  *****



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