Opinion: What happened? Nothing

POSTED: 07/6/14 6:53 PM

The tragic killing of Mark Anthony Reid Morgan would have brought closure to the bereaved family – in as far as closure is possible for such a heartbreaking event – if only legislators had done their job. The Common Court of Justice confirmed this week in its ruling that the man who killed the baby-boy will have to serve a 15-year prison sentence. It also lamented, like the Court in First Instance before it, the lack of the option to put the killer at the disposal of the government.

In October of last year we published already the following opinion, expecting that it would serve as a wake up call, but we should have known better. In the meantime politicians have been lamenting the ill-treatment of a 9-year old girl (by a man with mental challenges) but lament is all they did. Here is a reminder.

The prosecution wanted to put the killer at the disposal of the government – a so-called TBR-measure. Under TBR, a convict will be forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Based on annual evaluations his future will be determined. Due to their psychological condition, some TBR-clients never return to freedom.

It seemed a fitting measure for a killer who committed his gruesome crime in a frenzy of religious madness. He is, according to a psychiatric report, psychotic and he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. In other words: the man needs treatment – most likely for the rest of his life.

That is not going to happen because of political sloppiness that goes back almost sixty years, to May 19, 1954. On that date articles were added to the criminal code that allows for imposing TBR and the prosecution referred to these articles when it demanded that the court includes it in the sentence.

But the court discovered a catch – an ugly one. Article 2 of the national decree that added the articles to the criminal code determined that they would go into effect “on a date to be determined by the Governor.”

That governor was – from 1951 to 1956 – the late Teun Struycken. And Governor Struycken did nothing to put these articles into effect. He was, of course not alone: all the governors that succeeded him – nine in total up to 2010 when Frits Goedgedrag left office to become the governor of Curacao – failed to activate the articles as well.

It would be easy to blame the office of the governor for this oversight, but with the same ease it could be argued that successive parliaments of the Netherlands Antilles have been snoring at their heart’s delight over this issue. Nobody took any action – ever.

And now, almost sixty years later – it is almost too ridiculous to be true, but it is – the consequences are left on the doorstep of a broken family that lived happily with its baby boy in Middle Region until disaster struck.

The court ruled that, since the articles have not been put into effect, it is not possible to impose TBR on the baby-killer. Had the killer been younger than 18 – even one day – there would have been no problem, because there is current legislation that makes it possible to impose TBR on young convicts.

In April 2009 the court sent a 14-year old deranged boy under the TBR-measure to a facility in the Netherlands after finding him guilty in the so-called Halloween-manslaughter case that cost Victor Vannier his life on November 1, 2008.

The court considers the lack of a TBR-measure for adults a serious deficiency – and in this, the court is not alone. When the baby-killer returns to society after he has served his sentence he may or may not be in better shape from a psychological and psychiatric point of view. Whatever the case at that point in time, he will be the master of his own universe and there will be nobody around to tell him that he has to take his medication. It is of course a recipe for disaster – carefully prepared over the past sixty years by sleeping governors and parliaments.

There is however still one way out of this quagmire, but it requires action whereby everybody in the political arena has to be firing on all cylinders. The court notes in its ruling that it is the responsibility of the legislator – read: the parliament – to activate the articles that enable the court to impose TBR. And there is a possibility to give these articles that are part of the new criminal code preferential treatment so that they can go into effect shortly.

With a bit of luck, legislators have the time until say, February of next year (we wrote in October), expecting  the baby-killer to return to court for his appeal around that time. We rightly assumed that, with such a long sentence to his name, his attorney would file such an appeal. That could still be a moment for the solicitor-general to ask the Common Court of Justice for a different sentence – one that includes TBR.

To enable the solicitor-general to make this demand, and to enable the court to find a legal basis to honor it, politicians have to do their work real fast and demonstrate that not all their handiwork is like swimming in a pot with heavy syrup. It would show the parents of the late Mark Anthony that there are still people out there who care.

We all know what happened – nothing. So what are these politicians going to tell their electorate now that the time has come to ask once again for their vote?

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