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OPINION: WHAT IS THE MESSAGE? Featured

  • Written by  Anika Smith
  • 5 comments
OPINION: WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?

A father goes into a local police station and shows them a picture taken on his phone of an injury to his son's head caused by neighborhood thugs. The outcome was advice for his son to "learn to defend himself". 

A young woman learns that her abusive ex is soon to be released from jail. Fearing for her safety and knowing that a restraining letter would be little deterant, asks for assistance from local agencies and is told that nothing can be done till he actually does something. A young man is cornered by neighborhood thugs. In fear he brandishes a knife to force them back and thereby escape. He ends up in jail for threatening with a weapon.

All of these are brief synopsis' of situations that have happened or are happening as you read this. In one of these situations is my family member. So what is the message in all this? Do you see it? I do and its not a good one.

The community is rife with stories like these. Stories where, based on our current laws, show how the line between victim and "perpetrator" is easily crossed. Context is seldom taken into account, if ever. It doesn't matter how situations start, the focus is on how they finish and if the real perpetrators know this, true justice can be hard won. 

On an island where we are regularly exposed to what angry young men are capable of, is it any wonder why a woman would take a baseball bat to one of their heads? Yes it was a horrible thing to do and the situation did not end well for anyone but Im sure those that know her would tell you that on a regular day, this is not who she is. Fear clouds judgment; impaired judgment breeds catastophe.

The jails are filled with as many victims as there are perpetrators. Based on our current laws they are often one and the same. You basically have to come to the police with most of the detective work done before they'll take you seriously and even then there is no guarantee ("... learn to defend himself"). So what is the message that the community is meant to get from this? If the stars don't perfectly align, as a tax paying citizen, you are on your own.

Vigilante justice becomes a viable option when the variables of fear, a powerless police force and the cost of legal representation are present. Without the proper laws in place we reduce the police to community janitors who are only empowered after the fact. AFTER your ex-boyfriend has strangled you, AFTER your son has been killed by local gangs, AFTER blood has been spilled or major damage done. Knowing this in the heat of the moment means choosing between death or incarceration. No innocent law abiding person should be forced to do this.

Know this Bermuda, we are ALL in danger of being in a dangerous situation at any time. You may have mere seconds to make a very difficult decision. The law will NOT be on your side if you choose to physically defend yourself. You will be between a rock and a hard place where fear and reflexes rule. What would you do? What can you? 

We all know that prevention is better than a cure but if preventative measures don't work there has to be clear rules surrounding an individual's right to defend themselves. Many countries have these laws as realistically, even in a country as small as Bermuda, police often don't get to a scene in time to prevent the worst. What we DON'T want, is people in the community thinking that the best justice is one they make for themselves the law and police be damned. Yes, there are plenty of stories of those situations too but you won't hear about them in the daily. 

If faith in the judical system is to be restored in everyone's minds, we need our laws updated to reflect this island's very real modern reality. To fail to do so is to set the stage for this little island in the Atlantic to start resembling a sub-tropical Wild West.

5 comments

  • Jonny
    Jonny Friday, 06 October 2017 11:44 Comment Link

    The Police main mandate is to enforce the law, not to prevent crimes. A know a father who went to the police station to report his 17 old son as missing. The Police did not want to be bothered and said “He’s practically an adult”. Then they referred the father to various charities in Bermuda to “better” help. The problem however is that there is no charity in Bermuda to deal with 16 / 17 year old children who desire to drop out of school and live a life of crime. The last line of defense are the parents and proactive community policing.

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  • Cat
    Cat Thursday, 05 October 2017 22:24 Comment Link

    Thank you Anika Smith, I hope the powers that be read this. It would behoove Dwayne Caines (National Security Minister) to take a good hard look at the current legislation, legislation that is so incomplete that people are forced to walk around in fear when they know exactly who it is that's threatening them. Or worse yet, they're forced to leave Bermuda altogether - just so they can be safe!! There's no effort to even investigate complaints, we have to accept that nothing can be done - really??? Absolutely crazy. I'm so tired of the only thing government caring about is tourism and International Business - pouring millions of dollars into that and completely disregarding the needs of its PEOPLE! Our whole legal system turns a blind eye to what they KNOW is outdated and broken. Lawyers, judges, politicians - they just continue doing what they do while all around them people are suffering from the broken system in which these people function every day. No-one seems to care about generating new or updated laws unless its business related! It's so unacceptable.

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  • Keith DeShields
    Keith DeShields Wednesday, 04 October 2017 20:55 Comment Link

    Im so disappointed in the system and more so in the system and the so call defenders of the office innocent! And always the same the victim pays the worse price for defe dining them selves!

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  • Sherleeta
    Sherleeta Wednesday, 04 October 2017 19:47 Comment Link

    Sometimes I think the authorities know exactly what needs to be done but don't really care. I refuse to believe that the average person can see the obvious downfall of Bermudas social justice, but those in places of authority cannot. The more cases we see that show us that defending yourself means court dates and financial burden; there is no doubt in my mind that this will lead to unrest and violence all over the Island. Smh..........

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  • Sherri
    Sherri Wednesday, 04 October 2017 14:13 Comment Link

    Worth reading and facing the realty for so many on a personal level as we as a country. Our laws need updating to protect the citizen and for citizens to be have the right to defend themselves and property. What do you do when a person who is a known threat, threatens you. Fight or flight. No time to freeze, seconds could cost your life.
    Don't forget to invest in our future.
    Nurturing, caring relationships early in life help give children strong foundation. Early intervention, high quality child care and positive parenting are all factors that that can help our youth to grow into healthy adults. Of course we need to take care of basic needs like food and shelter. Poverty is a very high risk factor for children and families.
    Let's use all our resources to educate and get our people employed. Not with 2 or 3 jobs as their children will not have quality time with their parents.
    Our children are worth standing up for change. Let's make change happen.

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