The Senate, on Friday, February 15, passed three Bills to remove flogging and whipping from the country’s statute books.
The Bills passed were: the Larceny (Amendment) Act 2012; the Law Reform (Flogging and Whipping) (Abolition) Act, 2012; and the Obeah (Amendment) Act 2012.
Cabinet gave approval for the drafting of the Bills, which are in support of the Government’s commitment against torture and international protocols against human rights violations.
The practice of whipping and flogging ceased in Jamaica’s penal institutions in 1997 and since that time, the courts have not handed down sentencing with those stipulations.
In opening the debate, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, stated that flogging and whipping are considered to be cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment under international law.
“It is clear that the statute of provisions in our legislation, which impose a penalty of whipping or flogging, contravene both international covenant on civil and political rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, both of which are instruments to which Jamaica is a state party,” he stated.
He added that flogging and whipping date back to slavery and have no place in a modern society.
“The vestigial colonial legislation, which imposes a penalty of whipping or flogging, must now be repealed in order to mark a symbolic break with that ugly and brutal part of our history,” Senator Golding said.
In his remarks, Senator Lambert Brown described flogging and whipping as “barbaric and brutal” and should not be part of the punishment imposed by society.
“Are we saying there should be no justice? No, but the route to the justice must not come through barbarity. The route to justice shouldn’t be brutal. I believe there is a route to justice that is being encouraged now by the Ministry of Justice called Restorative Justice. This is the route,” he stated.
In supporting the bills, Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, said Jamaicans should not see the removal of flogging and whipping as a softening of the attitude on crime.
“We don’t want convicted criminals to remain in a criminal state of mind after they have served their term of imprisonment or paid the price. We don’t want convicted persons to permanently carry the scars of their crime in the future because what that will tend to do is to cause them to continue a life of crime,” Senator Williams stated.