KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams says that while the death penalty still exists in St. Vincent and the Grenadines it cannot be applied in an emotional manner.
Williams was speaking Wednesday night as a guest of Jomo Thomas’ “Voices” on WE FM.
Thomas, an attorney, asked the DPP how do prosecutors respond to crimes like that on Tuesday, where a man allegedly shot and killed his wife and another woman and wounded two others.
Thomas also asked how prosecutors cope with the public’s call for “vigilante justice”.
“You are called upon to be still the conscience of the nation. You can’t respond to public pressure,” said Williams.
He described as “irrational and sheer emotionalism” the calls of people who demand that the alleged perpetrators of such crimes to be punished without due process.
“‘Tear up the law books!’” he said, mimicking the calls of an angry public but hastened to say, “No. That is not how people — civilised nations operate.”
He mentioned a case where a female’s throat was slashed, saying, “… you hear this outburst ‘Bring back the death penalty!’
“The death penalty hasn’t gone anywhere,” William emphasised.
“The death penalty has always been there,” he further said, noting that capital punishment is reserved for the “worst of the worst”.
“If beheading a man and slashing his stomach and burying him is not the worst of the worst, you cannot tell me that you are going to have the death penalty coming where there is some domestic dispute and so forth, even if there is some premeditation,” Williams said, noting a the Privy Council’s ruling in such a case several years ago.
“Premeditation is not sufficient [to execute someone],” he further said.
“In other words, we have to have the rule of law. The rule of law must be always maintained and, as a prosecutor, even though you say you are Director of Public Prosecutions and you are looking into the public interest, you are not into a popularity contest or to satisfy the yearning of people for blood and this kind of thing,” he further explained.
Williams said that the DPP is “called upon to exercise good judgement and common sense and you can’t exercise good judgement and common sense if you get caught up in [emotionalism]”.
He, however, acknowledged that it is “natural for the public to respond that way [after a murder].
“Yes, and it is important for the public and persons to ventilate their opinions and so forth but you cannot lose sight – [that] there are guidelines,” he further said.
He said that there “standards that have to applied”, adding, “a person must be given a discount for a guilty plea” and not wasting the court’s time.
“Persons have to get an appreciation of how the justice system operates,” Williams said during the appearance in which he discussed the Prosecutors’ Code that was launched here recently.