Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves does not support corporal punishment for criminals.
“In fact, even for children, I am not a corporal punishment man. So you are talking to the wrong person for that. I don’t think you should have corporal punishment in schools.”
He made the point to journalists this month when asked to comment on a lawyer’s suggestion to the court that a petty thief be whipped as punishment.
“I don’t support that,” Gonsalves said.
At the Kingstown Magistrate Court earlier this month, Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett and lawyers at the bar table, who were not involved in the case, tried to determine an appropriate punishment for a petty thief.
Rillan Hill resident, Kendall “Dumpling” Moses was at the time being sentenced after he pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of strong rum from Randy’s Supermarket in Kingstown.
Asked to comment on sentencing, lawyer Grant Connell said that eight strokes from a particularly strong police officer might set the defendant right.
He said that whenever Moses thinks of stealing in the future, he would remember the lashes and be deterred.
But the magistrate noted that there was a public outcry when he floated such an idea earlier this year, and rejected the lawyer’s suggestion.
In the conversation with reporters, the prime minister, who is also minister of Legal Affairs, dismissed the lawyer’s suggestion, saying that Connell was “kicksing” (joking).
He, however, noted that the law provides for lashes for offenders who are less than 16 years told.
The prime minister said he does not support lashes for either adults or minors.
“There are other sentencing tools which you have,” he said.
He noted that during consultations on an education related law some years ago, “the Teachers’ Union was very strong –they wanted to keep beating people’s children.
“Now, I believe there are other ways in which you can discipline a child. That’s my view. But the teaching profession, largely, I suspect they would come around and change their view.
“I know the view I am expressing here might very well be minority view in the country. But it doesn’t matter me whether it is a minority view or not a minority view. You ask me my view and I tell you.”
The prime minister, who turns 72 on Aug. 8, spoke of his personal experience, having received lashes as a child.
“There are people who will tell me, ‘But you didn’t get a lot of licks. I say, ‘Yes, I got licks.’
“‘And you ain’t turn out bad.’
“‘I say, well, I didn’t turn out bad but I mighta turn out better if I didn’t get the licks,” the prime minister said and laughed.
He added: “So it is an argument which you can go in circles with it. I believe that you [can] deny children privileges and talk to them and so on and so forth.”