Former BCC president comes out against capital punishment

Attorney Fred Smith, QC, agrees referendum should be held on the issue.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Simeon Hall said yesterday that he is no longer a supporter of the death penalty.

“I am no longer a supporter of that kind of dealing with our crime problem,” he told Eyewitness News Online.

“If government feels it’s best to go forward and ask the Bahamian people, then that’s their right.

“The majority of the Bahamian people are pro-capital punishment, but I am not.”

Amid calls from domestic and international organizations for an abolishment of capital punishment in The Bahamas, Attorney General Carl Bethel said in March that capital punishment is not going anywhere.

The issue of capital punishment in The Bahamas has repeatedly been the subject of widespread public debate over the years.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis reiterated support for the measure a year ago.

At the time, however, Minnis said he was bound by the law.

He said the matter will be discussed in Cabinet.

In July 2018, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government was considering enacting constitutional changes to preserve capital punishment as an effective penalty under the law, noting that several decisions of the Privy Council had rendered the penalty to be essentially ineffective.

At the time, Bethel noted that the move might require a referendum.

“A standard has been set by the Privy Council as it relates to the worst of the worst when it comes to certain crimes,” he said at the time.

“Now, I’ve said it before, but I will say it again; there is always something worse than the worst; so, it’s a standard that might not be able to ever be met.

“So, we feel that there has to be some intervention by statute or by constitutional amendment to settle this issue.

“That is what we are going to look at.”

Bethel did not provide a timeline on when the government could hold a referendum on capital punishment.

There have been few public announcements on the government’s plans on the issue since then.

Meanwhile, prominent attorney Fred Smith said yesterday that as a human rights activist he is completely opposed to the death penalty.

But he agreed that if the government chose to amend laws related to capital punishment, it should conduct a referendum.

“They (proposed amendments) should be properly debated,” Smith said.

“Everybody’s view is deserving of respect.

“I can understand the reactions on both sides of the fence, but I think as we progress to trying to be a respectful society this is a very difficult question.”

In 2011, the Privy Council said the death penalty would only be reserved for the worst of the worst.

Despite the issuance of the death sentence over the last decade, there has not been an execution in The Bahamas since David Mitchell was executed on January 6, 2000.