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Judicial CP - December 2008

Corpun file 20811


The Nassau Guardian, 3 December 2008

Corporal punishment law to be repealed

By Erica Wells
NG Managing Editor


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The government intends to repeal the law permitting corporal punishment during the next legislative term, Attorney General Michael Barnett told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Switzerland this week.

The statement comes weeks after a corporal punishment sentence was carried out [apparently not reported at the time - C.F.] at Her Majesty's Prison on a 33-year-old man, convicted of burglary, attempted rape and causing harm to an 83-year-old woman.

Alutus Newbold was sentenced to eight strokes of the rod — four at the start of his sentence and four upon his release — and 16 years' imprisonment. The sentence drew a strong reaction from international human rights watchdog groups who branded corporal punishment as cruel, inhuman and degrading.

It was only the second time that the law had been carried out since 1991, when the law permitting corporal punishment as a sentence from a court of law was reinstated, after being repealed in 1984.

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Barnett defended The Bahamas' human rights record at the 3rd Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, on Monday afternoon. The Universal Periodic Review was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 and involves evaluating the human rights records of all 192 U.N. Member States once every four years.

Barnett told the meeting that with respect to children, Bahamian law does permit a parent the use of corporal punishment to correct a child under the age of 16 for misconduct or disobedience of a "lawful command" and for a parent to delegate the "power of correction" to a schoolmaster.

He noted that it is not proposed to amend that law and there has been no domestic lobby for any change in that law.

"Corporal punishment of a minor allowable by law does not amount to the sanction of child abuse," said Barnett. "Physical abuse of a child is punishable under the law."

The attorney general also noted that in the public school system corporal punishment may only be administered by a principal, vice principal, senior master or senior mistress.

Speaking at a press conference he held on Sunday, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham noted that The Bahamas was being asked to defend itself on many human rights questions.

"It's going to be interesting for us to put those to the public, so that the public of The Bahamas can see what the world's view on [these issues are]," Ingraham said.

In his 17-page statement at the meeting, Barnett also revealed that The Bahamas Government is considering a review of the age of criminality as part of its ongoing legal reform.

The current age of criminal responsibility in The Bahamas is seven. In the United Kingdom the age of criminal responsibility is 10, and in many other countries eight, and in even more countries the age is seven, the attorney general noted.

"The age of criminal responsibility in The Bahamas is a product of our Colonial past," said Barnett. "There is no domestic lobby to raise the age of criminality in The Bahamas; however, it should be noted that children below the age of 18 are sentenced by a court to serve their sentences in juvenile residential facilities administered and managed by the Department of Social Services and not by the Prison Department."

Barnett's statement also covered the topics of death penalty, complaints of police brutality, illegal immigration, the policy of Bahamianization and protection of human rights during natural disasters.


Copyright 2006 The Nassau Guardian. All rights reserved.

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