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High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle in a January 2023 photo.
High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle in a January 2023 photo.
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A High Court judge has expressed concern about the high homicide rate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which has recorded a record-setting 54 homicides this year.

Justice Brian Cottle said that while the deaths have largely been confined to a small proportion of the population, “unless we are careful, it can easily spread to the wider society.

“We each have to be the keeper of our brothers and sisters. We have to look out for one another.”

The judge was speaking on Thursday at the closing of the last session of the High Court. Some senior police officers were forced to leave the sitting prematurely because of a shooting in Lower Edinboro, on the boundary of the western end of Kingstown.

In that shooting, two men were attacked by a masked assailant who left them with gunshot injuries, which claimed the life of Dwayne Banfield, 34, the 53rd homicide victim.

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In his prison status report to the court, acting Superintendent of Police Dwayne Bailey said that 66 of the 399 prisoners were serving time for murder, 20 were awaiting trial and seven were on remand on murder charges.

This was a total of 93 prisoners, or 23.8% of the prison population, a fact that Justice Cottle noted in his comments.

The judge said this is concerning, adding that if the prisoner incarcerated for manslaughter and attempted murder were added to the figure, the number goes up to over 30%.

“Basically, one in every three persons in prison is there for homicide or attempted homicide,” he said, adding that a further 8% is there for unlawful possession of firearms.

“And we have seen and heard how many of our usually young male Vincentians who have perished this year, most of whom lost their lives to firearms. And almost in every single case, they are firearms which are illegitimate. That is, those for which the users do not have a license,” the judge said.

“We don’t grow guns in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we don’t manufacture guns in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But we all live here, we know where they come from, we know how they get here. It is up to us as a society to decide how we want to live,” Justice Cottle said.

He said there is always an element of uneasiness or distrust in reporting criminal conduct to the authorities.

The judge, however, said that a minority of citizens choose to pursue a life of crime, adding, “if the rest of us were to stand up to them, then any fear should be on their part, not on our part.

“That, of course, is easy to say but not easy to do because it does demand some individual courage on each occasion. More importantly, it requires us to maintain a level of faith or trust in our police officers.”

He said that from where he sits, he has heard the complaints “‘I am not making a report that my neighbour has an illegal firearm because if I make such a report, the police officers will tell this person that it was I who made the report.’

“Sometimes, there is something to be said for providing information as opposed to evidence but that information will not be provided unless we can convince our fellow citizens that they will not be imperilling their own security by providing that information.”

The judge said that if citizens do not provide that information, “what we get is what we have: too many of our young men losing their lives.

SVG has recorded a record-shattering 54 homicides this year, 50 of which investigators have classified as murder.

2 replies on “Judge concerned about SVG’s high homicide rate”

  1. Perhaps the judge would care to describe/ define for greater clarity that “small proportion of the population” he’s talking about. He might as well extend himself a bit further.

    It might well be a matter of sufficient importance, in context, for a voice of authority to shed as much light as possible, if only to set at ease the minds of those exemplary residents in the population who do not comprise the target group and who are highly unlikely to be felled by bullets on the street.

    It would surely not be the first time that this kind of expert ‘partitioning’ would be confidently declared.

  2. Were it ever a concern to you when you bin de top cop? Yo bin to serve and protect the citizens , in my opinion It was opposite, ah yo really bold faced and shameless.

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