The question of whether keeping the death penalty on the Territory’s law book would have resulted in fewer or no unsolved murders in the Territory was asked rhetorically by Junior Minister for Tourism, Hon. Archibald Christian during the 12 May sitting of the House of Assembly.
While debating the Secure Search (Beneficial Ownership) System Bill 2017, Hon. Christian announced that he is not happy about recent murders, and he noted the manner in which capital punishment was done away with effortlessly by the United Kingdom – the mother country.
In 1991 United Kingdom Government’s move to abolish the death penalty by an Order in Council that extended to Overseas Territories such as Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The only Overseas Territory that was not affected by that Order in Council was Bermuda.
In noting the abolition of the death penalty a few decades ago Hon. Christian said: “Back in the early 1990s we had the death penalty and irrespective of what anyone wants to say prior to the death penalty you can look at the murder rate in the Virgin Islands and see exactly what it stood at.”
“I know the human rights people will always have their arguments about cruel and unusual punishment, and people’s right to survive and so on. What about people right to not be killed; and we were told that there was nothing that we could do about it. It was imperial legislation that was sent down to us, you comply or else,” the Junior Minister added.
Prior to Hon. Christian’s comment on the capital punishment abolishment a resident expressed similar views during the Speak Out BVI radio programme on 21 July 2015. At that time the resident announced: “They messed up the country in the first place by banning capital punishment…and now here full of murders and we have to feed them for the rest of their lives…because they say that too many people on death row…” In 1991, Governor Herdman expressed, “off the record”, his dissent with Britain’s approach, yet one journalist did not abide by the “off the record” ethics published the information.
The old Her Majesty’s Prison in Road Town dates back to the 1840s; and during its operation the Prison was the location for many hangings in the BVI until the point when capital punishments were done away with.
The 8 may 1811 hanging of Arthur Hodge is looked at as a significant historical milestone as it is said to have contributed to the freeing of slaves throughout the British Empire in 1838.