Information Minister says gov’t cannot rush to remove death penalty

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

The opinions of key influential people, along with feedback from wider consultations, will have to be taken into consideration before local lawmakers will give serious thoughts to removing the death penalty from the country’s statute books.

The remarks by Information Minister Melford Nicholas come amid renewed debate on the matter.

Antigua and Barbuda has not enforced the death penalty since 1991, though it remains an option for cases deemed to be “the worst of the worst and the rarest of the rare”.

The matter gained prominence again in recent weeks after the murder of Customs inspector Nigel Christian prompted the government to request help with the investigations from London’s Scotland Yard police, among other law enforcement agencies.

However, assistance from Britain is dependent on a guarantee from the government that the death penalty will not be imposed if someone is found guilty of that crime.

Nicholas said the death sentence has not been enforced in three decades and going to the next step to remove it from the law books is not something the government is currently considering.

“This is a sensitive matter and this is a matter where a number of things will be considered. The government has no immediate intention of changing the legislation. The option on the books at the moment certainly gives the flexibility to the judge and the practice would indicate where we are with hangings,” Nicholas said during Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing.

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