Politics & violent crime

| 05/10/2011

Politicians like to claim credit for positive things that have nothing to do with them, and to deny responsibility for negative things that are entirely within their control. The politics of deterring and punishing violent crime is no exception.

Contrary to self-serving public statements by politicians that seek to point to others as being responsible for all aspects of controlling the activities of violent criminals in our community, it is our elected government that sets the penalties for crime and it is entirely the fault of the elected government when the sentencing parameters specified in criminal law do not adequately provide for the deterrence and punishment of violent crime.

Politicians may try to avoid their own responsibility by suggesting that judges are to blame for sentences that do not appear adequate. No one should be fooled. Judges impose sentences within the parameters provided for in legislation enacted by politicians. When politicians enact criminal laws or leave criminal laws on the books that in effect say, “Punishment for violent crime may be limited to a metaphorical slap on the wrist”, that is what will happen from time to time.

When politicians permit rules that specify that a violent criminal who is caught in the act and therefore has no option but to plead guilty, receives an automatic one third reduction in his sentence for pleading guilty, that is both ludicrous and the fault of the politicians. When politicians permit rules that require that in almost all cases the sentences for multiple violent crimes are served concurrently rather than consecutively, therefore providing absolutely no deterrence for a string of violent crimes, that is ludicrous and the fault of the politicians. When politicians permit rules that provide for automatic parole when only a fraction of a sentence for a violent crime has been served, that is ludicrous and the fault of the politicians.

If politicians were willing to take just a small amount of time to amend the criminal legislation which sets out sentencing parameters, all of these defects could be eliminated and fewer violent criminals would be on the street committing violent crimes. Politicians have failed to do this.  

We have witnessed many examples in recent months in which the elected government has passed legislation in a matter of hours using the justification that the legislation was necessary to provide an economic advantage to some group or other. These same politicians have failed to find the fewminutes required to legislate corrections for our existing laws relating to the sentencing of violent criminals.

Violent crime is destroying our country. Solving all of the problems related to violent crime is complex and requires each of us to do what is within our control. That includes elected politicians. The first responsibility of the elected government is to protect its citizens. Our government has so far failed to do what only they can do to deter and punish violent crime.

Fixing defects in our legislation which permit or require inadequate sentences for violent crimes will not by itself solve the entire problem of crime in our community, but it is one part. It is the one element that our politicians have direct control over, and it can be done quickly and at very low cost. Each of us should consider why our elected politicians are failing to do what only they can do to ensure that sentences for violent crime both deter and punish violent criminals?

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is time that the country gets really tough on crime and in order to do that we as a society have to face some hard facts and impose a more radical process for prevention. We cannot control the Police in our form of Gov. The UK has them making a laughing stock of this community day after day with the most recent field trip by our esteemed UK top cops. But what we can do is impose harsh sentences. We have to face facts and see that we have lost a generation or two. Write them off. No more coddling and such. Then offer a cash incentive for sterilization of people. I would venture to have it State ordered but the churches would be reading passages until our ear drumbs blew. There needs to be control over the breeding of these thugs. They are not producing and raising a cow but a human life that is turned into a victim of circumstances which becomes a problem to the country. At the sametime to compliment the above we need a strong Social Service program that there is a Spearheader in charge that has real State Sponsered and sanction activities for all youth. Not just football and preaching but a wide spectrum of activities for the youth. While we are at it make a few for parent and child to do together.
    There also needs to be stronger and enforced laws of parents being held accountable for their Childs actions.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There have been several sentences that in my view clearly show that we need to change our laws to give long minimum sentences along the lines described by Mr. St.James. I also think that we need to reform the prison to make it less cozy for the short time that convicted gun men spend there. 

  3. Anonymous says:

     I have been really surprised at how soft on crime this government is. I hope that in 2013 people who will pass tough new laws to get the criminals off the streets stand for election. My family will vote for them.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are willing to cast your vote based on promises, I give you this:

    • Anonymous says:

      Here is another promise that you can take to the bank!

      http://www.udp.ky/manifesto.php

      The PPM has severely neglected public safety, and our society has not become any safer over the past four years. 2008 represented the highest murder rate in our country’s history. Burglaries and other crimes continue to create uncertainty in our communities. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that many crimes continue to go unreported. The reputation of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIP) reputation has been unfairly damaged by poor governance and mismanagement by the PPM. The UDP will take the following measures to bring the RCIPS back on a solid footing and to restore security and public safety to our communities.

      • We will implement a comprehensive training and development program for police officers.
      • We will also establish an aggressive initiative to recruit former qualified Caymanian police officers to the RCIPS as well as recruit and train new Caymanian police officers. We will also examine the current policy on scheduling the work shifts of police.
      • We will improve police intelligence to help battle drug trafficking and other crimes.
      • We will find a resolution to the current helicopter fiasco to minimise losses to the government and consider an appropriate alternative plan.
      • We will make efforts to restore governance and public confidence in the RCIPS and to improve staff moral.
    • Anonymous says:

      And yet another good example of the difference in having all the answers when you are not in power (aka Ellio), and knowing what to do once you have power.

      http://www.udp.ky/newsdetail.php?id=11

      Opposition Leader criticises record crime rates
      05 January 2009, Monday
       

      Grand Cayman (5 January 2009) – Mr. McKeeva Bush, Leader of the Opposition has criticised the PPM Government for lack of effectiveness in dealing with rising crime in the country since 2005.

      Mr. Bush was referring to the record number of murders in 2008 which is the highest in the history of the Cayman Islands as well as an increasing number of burglaries and other crimes. There have been 7 murders in 2008.

      “We already have severe worsening economic conditions and people are suffering, we don’t need an ineffective approach to dealing with issues such as crime and security at this time. When the PPM came into power in 2005 they put the blame squarely at the feet of the UDP for crime rates. Now after their 3 and a half years in power we are seeing the highest murder rates in our history and increasing burglaries and other crimes in general, the PPM should now be held accountable for the serious situation that we are in regarding crimes in this country”, Mr Bush said.

      “There are dedicated and hard working persons within the RCIPS. But they must be provided with the necessary stability in their working environment in which to do their jobs. It is widely known that morale is very low within the RCIPS” said Mr Bush.

      The RCIPS has been fraught with difficulties since 2008 and the hope is that the new deputy Acting Commissioner Mr James Smith will now be able to keep the team focused on ongoing policing. Mr Bush gave his support to the new Commissioner.

      “It has to be said that the new acting Commissioner has not stepped into an ideal working environment but I encourage everyone to get behind and give him the necessary support to try to keep the RCIPS effective on an ongoing basis. The government has a responsibility for peace, order and good governance and if they had the audacity to blame the UDP in 2005 they should accept blame now”, added Mr Bush.

      Mr Bush lamented the ever growing reports of burglaries and other crimes in the country and tied them to the overall worsening state of affairs generally in the country. “These increasing incidences of burglaries and other crimes which have impacted people’s homes and businesses is linked to the social and economic crisis that this government has put this country in with their poor policies. Unfortunately, this Government does not seem to understand the relationship between a healthy economy and a more stable society,” he added. While lamenting the general state of affairs regarding crime in the country, Mr. Bush offered his sincere condolences to the family of the 17 year old teenager who was shot over this past weekend.

       

  4. Anonymous says:

    There have been repeated posts and comments here, and in the other media and also face to face requests over the last 2 years for the politicians to do something to about the slap on the wrist sentences that are handed out. The politicians know that the sentences these gun men get is a joke but they chose to do nothing. They need to do something now. Enough is enough.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You said: Politicians may try to avoid their own responsibility by suggesting that judges are to blame for sentences that do not appear adequate. No one should be fooled. Judges impose sentences within the parameters provided for in legislation enacted by politicians. When politicians enact criminal laws or leave criminal laws on the books that in effect say, “Punishment for violent crime may be limited to a metaphorical slap on the wrist”, that is what will happen from time to time".

    In a recent case where the Penal Code says that the punishment for robbery (and attempted robbery) carries a maximum of life imprisonment  the Judge gave a 6 year sentence instead. Can you please explain how this was the politicians' fault? Some discretion should be left in the hands of the courts but the courts should be expected to exercise their discretion sensibly.   

    • Anonymous says:

      From what I understand from the Viewpoint, (which I agree with), the answer is clear. If our politicians had ensured that our legislation limited judicial discretion in a manner reflecting community values, the sentences would have been longer. By way of example, if our politicians had bothered to pass legislation stating that sentences for violent crimes should be served consecutively not concurrently, and that except in exceptional circumstances the minimum penalty for gun crimes and armed robbery should be 10 years SERVED and that the standard discount of 1/3 for an guilty plea should only apply in circumstances in which the guilty partyshowed remorse and voluntarily surrendered to the police (rather than merely having the misfortune of meeting up with 2 very brave Caymanian men), then the sentences would have been much than 6 years meaning out in 2 years.  It is the politician's fault for passing weak laws and leaving on the books while violent crime is destroying our country.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry you don't get off that easily. The article exonerates the judges and blames the politicians. The article falsely suggests that the judges have no option but to impose a sentence which is nothing more than "a slap on the wrist" since that is what the law prescribes. The case in point (where the law prescribed a life sentence) shows that the basic argument is fallacious. Your argument is the legislators should make up for lack of the proper exercise of judicial discretion by imposing a minimum sentence. In no way can that exonerate the judges for the sentences they have passed which frankly defy common sense.    

        Futher in terms of weak lws, the police are not using the present laws effectively. For example the Penal Code makes being a member of a gang an offence. The police claim they know who the gang members are yet not one has been charged on that basis. This would at least taken them off the streets at a time of escalating crisis. Further if the police had ideas as to how the laws should be improved then they should make specific recommendations to the legislators.

        There is plenty of blame to go around.     

        • Anonymous says:

          You seem to have misread the article. It does not exhonerate judges at all. What it specifically says is that in the absence of legislated minimum sentences "from time to time" judges will impose a slap on the wrist.. That is a fact that we have observed. Only the politicians can ensure that judges don't have the discretion to impose a slap on the wrist. That is also a fact.

        • Anonymous says:

          You must be reading some other Viewpoint. Judges can get things wrong but how far wrong they go is determined by legislation. The latitude for judges to impose lenient sentences can be limited by legislated minimum sentences. Only politicians can impose those limits. At the moment judicial discretion is not sufficiently restricted and our politicians are doing nothing to fix this problem.

          You are just plain wrong about our gang legislation. If you have ever looked at it you should have recognised that our gang legislation is designed to be completely unworkable. There has never been a prosectution using our gang legislation because a successful prosecution would be impossible in the absence of a guilty plea back up by a cast iron confession in writing witnessed by the Pope.

          If we want to get serious about gangs and other types of organised crime we need to amend our anti-gang legislation to incorporate features of US style RICO legislation which has proven itself effective for many years.                                                             

        • Anonymous says:

          For the two (?) posters below who suggested that I had misread the article or read a different article I expressly based my comments on the following quote from the article:

          "Politicians may try to avoid their own responsibility by suggesting that judges are to blame for sentences that do not appear adequate. No one should be fooled. Judges impose sentences within the parameters provided for in legislation enacted by politicians. When politicians enact criminal laws or leave criminal laws on the books that in effect say, “Punishment for violent crime may be limited to a metaphorical slap on the wrist”, that is what will happen from time to time".

          Perhaps you were reading a different article or misread this one, but it is quite clear that the article is saying politicians are to blame not the judges. It suggests that judges hands are tied, not that they may sometimes get things wrong. You have only managed to demonstrate my point that your argument is that the legislators should make up for lack of the proper exercise of judicial discretion by imposing a minimum sentence. 

          I am not sure that you have read the relevant provisions in the Penal Code, or if you have then it is clear that you don't understand them, but it is not nearly as difficult as you suggest. It does not require a confession any more than any other offence. What it does require is good intelligence and use of the powers to tap telephones and search premises.  

           

           

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree that automatic sentence reductions irrespective of circumstances are ridiculous. Why should thugs who are apprehended in the act by brave members of the public have their sentences reduced by a third because of the bravery of those who faced down gunmen?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well written. There are many things required to put this country back on the right track and making the changes to our laws that you suggest is definitely one of them.