Appeals Court President says Stop Seeking ‘Scapegoats’

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Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer addresses the Court at the opening of the Criminal Assizes of 2008. (Photo: Patrick Hanna)

By Clunis Devaney

NASSAU, Bahamas – President of the Court of Appeal Dame Joan Sawyer is urging Bahamians to stop blaming others for the escalation of crime and “accept responsibility for what has now caught up with us.”

Dame Joan’s comments came on Thursday (January 3, 2008) at the opening of the Criminal Assizes of 2008.

The President underscored that, as long as the mode of dealing with crime and criminal activity is one of seeking scapegoats or casting blame, “any real solution will remain elusive.”

She emphasised that many persons, without weighing what they have said, have sought to blame the Judiciary or the particular executive branch of Government for the increase in crime.

“In my view,” said Dame Joan, “we must stop seeking to blame other people for what has happened to our young people in our country, since all of us must accept our responsibility for what has now caught up with us.

“Casting blame is a useless exercise; what we should be doing is each person or organization examining himself or itself to see whether, and if so how, he or they may have wittingly or unwittingly contributed to the present problems facing the country.”

The President noted that in 2007, the homicide rate climbed to 79 in a country where the population is just a little over 300,000 people.

Dame Joan pointed out that most of the suspects are under the age of 30 years.

“When situations like the present ones arise,” she said, “some people look for easy answers and immediate solutions. Very little attention appears to be paid to the fact that there is a training process which precedes a child becoming a law-abiding adult or a criminal adult, coming to the notice of the community.

“That process begins in the homes, whether humble or aristocratic. History has not yet revealed any useful alternatives to the process for the proper rearing of human beings. By this I am not espousing brutalisation of children or anyone. I speak of training.”

The President stressed that the solution to the social problems of The Bahamas, “like those of most countries in the world, lies in the hands of the citizenry as a whole and not any particular group or segment.”

Dame Joan said that Bahamians should examine themselves honestly with regards to the social ills facing this nation.

“What is required, I think, is that each man, woman, boy or girl examine him or herself and consider whether he or she has in any way contributed to or condoned or encouraged any breach of the law, either with regard to themselves of other persons,” she urged.

“And, where any of us find that we may have so acted, we should then set out daily, hourly, minutely, to undo any harm we may have done by neglect, and to do any right we have failed to do and try not to repeat the wrongdoings of the past,” said the President.

She also reminded Bahamians that life does no revolve around any one person.

“We are all here for a limited time and we are required to do as much good as we can each day, for no one has promised us tomorrow. Anything else is just wishful thinking,” Dame Joan said.