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Attorneys not convinced minimum 30-year sentence for murder necessary

Attorneys John Clarke and Isat Buchanan
By Kimone Witter 
 
Attorney-at-law John Clarke says plans by the government to table legislation that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years imprisonment for murder, should be based on data.
 
Mr. Clarke, who does not see the change as necessary, argues that the proposal could lead to a greater backlog in the criminal justice system and add to the increasing prison population.
 
With more than 1,300 murders committed since the start of the year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday that more legislative changes were coming to address the high rate of homicides islandwide.
 
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has been directed to review the penalty for murder.
 
But speaking Thursday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106, Mr. Clarke suggested that the proposal was frivolous. 
 
"Ultimately one wonders whether this proposal was informed by any data and what is the real mission here that is intended to be solved by this. It can't be that you just have a public relations announcement. There must be something that is triggering this proposal, and what is triggering it must be data and must be reasoned thought," he argued.
 
The minimum sentence for murder in Jamaica is 15 years and the ultimate penalty is life imprisonment.
 
Mr. Clarke believes the penalty for murder is adequate and the government's attention would be better served in other critical areas such as improving compensation for police officers or even judges who "are not getting compensation which can be linked and commensurate with their colleagues in the Commonwealth Caribbean". 
 
Attorney Isat Buchanan has argued that a harsher penalty for murder will not be a deterrent.
 
Mr. Buchanan said while he understands the frustration of the public and the need for the government to act, the state will not be able to successfully fight crime without fixing other social ills plaguing the society. 
 
"When you're dealing with people who have very limited education and we're not doing anything to ensure that all persons are educated - and not just at the secondary level but free education at the tertiary level so persons' minds and respect for self and feeling like a human being can be acknowledged by other persons - then we're going to always understand that any government that goes into power is going to feel that pressure; and tinkering with numbers is only a bandaid solution and it doesn't help," he declared. 
 


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