The scourge of gun-related crimes in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean has been characterized by a High Court judge as a “blight” across the region.
And Justice Carlisle Greaves has maintained that the law courts have no alternative but to impose heavy sentences on the perpetrators to assist in keeping communities safe.
The judge was speaking as he sentenced Andre Lord Evil Jackman, Kaeron Sylvian Moore and Shane Hakeem Omar Babb, all St Lucy residents, to 25 years in prison, on gun-related crimes.
The men had been found guilty earlier in the criminal assizes on several charges including having an illegal firearm in their possession and unlawfully and recklessly engaging in conduct that placed two men in danger of death or serious bodily harm on September 30, 2018.
Justice Greaves charged that despite having persons convicted of similar crimes in Barbados almost two decades ago, gunmen still appear to be “confident and arrogant” enough in this jurisdiction to escalate their gun terror.
“It is evident that these courts must enforce and reinforce their intolerance of this activity and by their sentences seek to persuade the perpetrators to abandon their folly.
“The scourge of tit for tat shootings and in particular gang or gang associate shootings is a blight across the Caribbean region, from Bermuda in the north, to Guyana in the south, and indeed across the Commonwealth and beyond.
“It is evident that once they catch hold in a jurisdiction, they escalate and become almost impossible to reduce or eliminate.”
The High Court judge added: “Perhaps that may be because so many victims fall to the violence that those associated with them dwell in a perpetual state of fear and vengeance and develop an attitude of vengeance or of it’s either me or you. Thus the escalation, difficult to eradicate.”
Such crimes, he explained, contribute to the “trauma” of a society and “scare and intimidate” its citizens into fear of cooperating with the police and courts and thus provide fertile ground for the culprits to grow stronger at the expense of the community.
Jackman, Moore and Babb, he stated, are three gunmen from the same community with at least four guns still unaccounted for. He said despite the sentences being imposed on perpetrators, gun crimes continue to escalate in Barbados.
Greaves pointed to statistics saying that in 2019 Barbados suffered a record 48 murders, most of which were through gun crime. He said despite the COVID-19 lockdown, the following year there was still a significant and substantial number of gun violence and in 2021 it is “again not unremarkable”.
The judge stated: “It seems our gunmen are determined not to drop their guns. The courts for their part, are left with the only alternative of imposing heavy sentences to assist in keeping the community safe from gunmen.
However, Justice Greaves admitted that having tremendous experience in the trial of these types of cases in other jurisdictions, the court was aware of the difficulty in eliminating these types of “tit for tat shootings” once they take hold in a community.
He made it clear that “this type of activity must be nipped in the bud”.
Greaves said: “Judicially the courts can and must only impose very stiff sentences not only to punish the perpetrators, but to deter others and to promote peace and comfort in the community.
“Failure to do so, will erode the confidence of the community, retard their willingness to assist the law by offering statements and evidence to identify and convict the culprits and it will embolden the offenders who will think they can do as they please, including the intimidation of witnesses not only from the community but even amongst those in authority.
“These sentences ought to therefore be long and strong,” he added.