02 April, 2010
Let us look at the first of our fundamental rights, ie, the right to life. The protection of our right to life is enshrined in section 2(1) of the 1982 Constitution of Anguilla. This reads:
2.(1) No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of
Anguilla of which he has been convicted.
The meaning of this is clear. No law can be passed in
Anguilla permitting someone to be executed, save in carrying out a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence. So, if the House of Assembly were to pass a law providing for mercy killing in Anguilla, that would be unconstitutional. If we were to provide by law for a eugenics programme of terminating the life of all persons who have an IQ, or intelligence quotient, below a certain level, that would be unconstitutional.
In the statute books, you may still find the provision that the sentence for murder is death by hanging. Such a sentence would indeed be a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence, and apparently permissible. However, the section of the Anguilla Constitution permitting executions by way of a sentence of a court has been impliedly amended by a subsequent statutory instrument. The death penalty for murder was abolished in Anguilla, and all the
, in the year 1991. Section 3 of the British Overseas Territories (Abolition of the Death Penalty for Murder) Order, 1991, provides: Caribbean Territories
Abolition of the Death Penalty for Murder
3. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law in force in the Territory, no person shall be sentenced to death by any court in the Territory for the crime of murder, and a person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Since, for all intents and purposes, in
Anguilla we only had the death penalty for murder it is now safe to say that the death penalty has been completely abolished. Nobody can be hanged for murder in Anguilla since the year 1991, no matter how deserving we may think that person might be of such a retributive penalty.
Much as some of us may think otherwise, this is no great loss in practice. My researches have not uncovered a single case of a person being executed in
Anguilla for murder since the abolition of slavery in the year 1834. I am told that many years ago one or two persons who committed murders in Anguilla were taken to St Kitts, tried there, and hanged there. But, no one has been hanged in Anguilla in all the years of its recorded history, so far as I have been able to determine.