The Clarendon five: Rethinking the right to life
A poster with photos of the Clarendon mother and her four children who were brutally killed. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Dear Editor,

I do not believe that there is anyone in Jamaica, the Caribbean, or elsewhere who has heard of the brutal murder of the Clarendon mother and her four children and has not been jolted by this heinous crime.

Let me be clear, I am all for the protection of human rights. I am a believer in the right to life. However, this right, which has the elements of the individual and collective right, must be balanced against that of other rights holders.

Regarding this case, there are persuasive voices stating that only the murderer is entitled to the protection of the right to life. But the right to life is safeguarded in our constitution: “...the right to life, liberty, and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which the person has been convicted...”

The murderer has deprived this right of not only the victims but that of their immediate and extended family. The victims are robbed of their everlasting life through their children’s children or DNA. If we consider the multiplier effect on generations, the murderer has deprived the Jamaican society and wider humanity of about 2,048 people over the next 10 generations. Had the Clarendon five survived into old age and begot children, what would their contribution be to the development of Jamaica?

For one person to wipe from the face of the Earth 10 generations — the death penalty is too good.

In this case, justice should take its course. The law must be swift and decisive. Otherwise, justice could be caught by the notion of undue delay and inhumane treatment. The judgement in the Pratt and Morgan case has rendered Jamaica and other English-speaking Commonwealth countries virtually impotent in carrying out the death penalty.

Certain crimes are so egregious, even in an immoral society, and the Clarendon five counts as one such crime. Hang them high should be the sentence of the court for anyone found guilty of committing this heinous act.

Elaine Campbell

Legal researcher

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