Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says he does not personally support the death penalty, even as the New Democratic Party (NDP), which he leads, has not advocated that it be removed from the law books.
“What I said earlier, is that the severity of the punishment is not really what matters. Yes, you have to have severe penalties. But you also have to have the certainty or at least a very high probability of detection, prosecution and conviction. That is what is going to bring the results, ultimately,” Friday said on Boom FM on Tuesday.
“The death penalty is not necessarily a deterrent to persons who feel that they’re not going to get caught. I am not somebody who supports the death penalty,” he further said as he responded to the question of whether he supports the death penalty.
Friday who is also a lawyer, was speaking on the issue of crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has recorded nine homicides this year, following on a record 42 last year.
The opposition leader noted that the death penalty is the maximum punishment for murder in SVG.
“But, as you know, the Privy Council has made that pretty much impossible. But you have sentences that could range very long, 25, 30 years up to life in prison,” Friday said.
The opposition leader said that he understands that in a society that there are persons, and probably the majority of the population, who support the death penalty.
“As a person who’s a leader of a country, I have to represent — this is a matter that each person in their own conscience will have to decide,” Friday said.
“And as a government, you can’t just simply go and do what is your own personal wish. You also have to represent what is the, in this matter, prevailing wishes of the people of this country. And that is what we will do in government.”
He said that people call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, but added that this was never removed from the penal code.
“It’s just simply that the Privy Council, under which we are governed, and I would suspect, too, the Caribbean Court of Justice, if you were there, have made that penalty the rarest of the rarest and to the point where it no longer exists.”
However, the host of the programme noted that during the 2009 constitutional referendum, the NDP did not support the removal of the death penalty.
“You asked me about my personal position and not the party’s position,” Friday said, adding that they are not one and the same.
“I am a Democrat thing. As I said, you may have your own personal positions on various things,” Friday said.
“Well, the party’s position is that we have not advocated any change to the system as it is now,” Friday said, adding, “… this is what has happened in other countries, progressive countries now, over time that they move in certain directions, depending on how they see it affecting their lives.
“And that is something that as somebody who is the head of a country, you have to be cognisant of that. You cannot just go and do what you think is your own desire. We’re not a dictatorship and so forth. And that inspires more confidence,” Friday said.