JUSTICE Minister Delroy Chuck is holding fast to his view that children of a certain age who are convicted of capital murder should serve a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
He said that youngsters from the age of 15 “clearly must understand what you’re doing and the consequence of what may happen if you’re apprehended and you get convicted in a court of law”.
Chuck, who is chairman of the joint select committee of Parliament now reviewing the Child Care and Protection (Amendment) Act, 2023 — which stipulates this mandatory sentence for children — urged members at Wednesday’s meeting to side with him.
Committee members were examining the matrix of submissions, with Chuck favouring the recommendation of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP) for the minimum 20-year sentence to only apply to children in cases of capital murder.
“I would agree in many ways with what the Office of the DPP proposal that the minimum mandatory applies to capital murder and 20 years is not insufficient, if you ask me. It’s appropriate,” he said.
“So, quite frankly, I would urge us to agree that this section applies only to capital murder and we agree with not less than 20 years because this Bill should send that signal, especially to parents who have children under their charge to control their young people because if they don’t, then they will be visiting these children for the next 20 years in jail,” he said.
Chuck further pointed out that a penalty must be imposed that satisfies the public interest and the sentiments of the friends and families of the victim. Otherwise, those families and friends of the victim may feel that the justice system has failed them.
“I feel that the justice system [has] to send that signal that when you’re convicted of a crime, you’re going to get a sentence that matches the seriousness of the offence, otherwise we’re going to have a situation where people…can’t wait on the justice system. They are going to exact revenge and retaliation, especially for really serious egregious crimes,” he said.
As Chuck wrapped up the meeting, he proposed that the intended amendment to Section 73 of the Child Care and Protection Act only deal with capital murder, so that less egregious cases of non-capital murder are left up to the judge to decide on.
“I think it’s a balancing we’re trying to do, but at the same time, satisfy the public interest as to what the legislature wants to do,” he said.
While other members appeared to still be on the fence on the matter, Government senators Kavan Gayle and Charles Sinclair were in agreement with the proposal for a mandatory minimum to only apply to children convicted of capital murder and for them to serve 20 years.
Chuck urged colleagues to make a decision and come to a consensus at the next meeting of the committee.
The committee is also deliberating on the Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment) Act, 2023, and the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Act, 2023 which are related legislation dealing with minimum mandatory sentencing.