Crime and Punishment Among the Last Englishmen

Letter From the West Indies

England abolished capital punishment in the mid-1960's when few capital crimes were committed there, and corporal punishment was abolished long before that. Sometimes when I am in Manhattan, reading of the constant homicides there, I recall the four "Mayfair Playboys" of my not-so-distant youth who were sentenced to the "cat" in two doses of eight strokes, the full order of 16 being thought unbearable at one time. Their offense: beating up an old lady (they did not even rob her). Last year most crimes in Britain, which admittedly doubled from 1979 to 1990, were simple car thefts. In the East Sussex in which I was brought up I hardly ever saw a policeman (for some reason London's Met, or Metropolitan police, used to refer to their country colleagues as "Swedes").

In 1966 England appointed its first colored policeman (a Coventry Pakistani). Upon independence every ex-British Caribbean island—Montsenat and Belize choosing to remain dependent—retained the death penalty by hanging. Throughout all of them, prison governors, prison staffs, police commissioners, police forces, and local criminal investigation departments are drawn from indigenous populations. This interrelatedness makes for efficiency in apprehension and conviction of criminals. When Scotland Yard officials arrived in Grenada last year searching for a West Indian fugitive who had killed his paramour in London, they were astonished...

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