No sentence-review after 20 years Duncan: “A life sentence is for life”POSTED: 05/25/12 2:16 PM
GREAT BAY – Justice Minister Duncan’s proposes to take article 28 that gives convicts with a life sentence the right to ask for a review of their sentence after 20 years out of the draft criminal code. But lifers still have a backdoor to early release through the pardon-legislation; this option offers more opportunities, because inmates have the right to ask for a pardon any time – from the day after their verdict – and as many times as they want.
Members of Parliament firmly backed Duncan’s proposal to drop article 28. “A life sentence is a life sentence,” MPs like Leroy de Weever and George Pantophlet said.
In the memorandum of amendment, Minister Duncan writes that dropping the article is inspired by the social unrest Curacao experienced after James Murray, who serves a life sentence for the 1979-murder of a 6-year-old girl filed a petition for his release after 33 years in jail.
Duncan opened his presentation in parliament with a snide remark in the direction of Evelyn H., the former leader of the Brooks Tower project who accused Duncan in court on Wednesday of giving her the instruction “to help everybody.”
“We have to stand still as a society and realize that we have become condescending and very tolerant towards criminal actions. It cannot be so that civil servants undertake actions and then blame the devil, or that inmates behave like they are the victims of God knows who. We may have to put aside a lot of sympathy.”
Dropping article 28 is partly based on the thought that, as the minister writes in the memorandum of amendment, “The judge has made a well-considered choice by imposing a life sentence to remove the defendant permanently from the society. This is the basis for the legitimacy to declare the re-socialization instrument of conditional release not applicable to convicts with a life sentence.”
Duncan said that the policy he proposes is in line with the vision of the Dutch government: a life sentence is in principle for the duration of one’s natural life. “Sometimes a crime is so serious and the risk that somebody remains dangerous so big, that permanent exclusion from the society is necessary.”
The memorandum states that the policy does not violate the European Human Rights Treaty. The Supreme court ruled in 2009 that the possibility of a pardon still offers the perspective of release.
When a lifer petitions the minister for a pardon, a decision will be based on the convict’s personal circumstances and on advice from the independent judge and from the Public Prosecutor’s office.
The memorandum further states that lifers will get the same treatment in prison as other inmates. “He will take part in the day program and have the option to take part in education programs. A humane approach and supervision remain in place also for this category of inmates.”
Duncan said that there are currently five inmates with a life sentence at Pointe Blanche. One of them is the man who killed a daughter of businessman Bobby Velasquez; two others are the convicts in last year’s Regatta-murders. One lifer is from Curacao.