government: Parliamentary democracy
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 27 October 1979
legal system: based on common law
legislative system: unicameral House of Assembly
judicial system: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based on St. Lucia)
religion: majority Protestant; minority Catholic
death row: 1 (as of December 31, 2017)
year of last executions: 13-2-1995
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Murder and treason are capital crimes. The multi-island country can now be considered a de facto abolitionist country since its last execution took place on February 13, 1995, when three people were put to death after having their death warrants issued only four days earlier.
St Vincent is a British Independent Territory for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remains the final court of appeal.
St Vincent is debating adherence to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that would replace the Privy Council as the final court of appeal in the region. The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16, 2005. However, the country will have to hold a special referendum to be able to switch to the CCJ.
Caribbean countries view the CCJ as the means to throw off the last vestiges of colonialism, but human rights groups have warned that the Court may be a hanging court.
Since the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling by the Privy Council, the death penalty can not be carried out if the prisoner concerned has been under sentence of death for more than five years, in which case the sentence is automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
On March 11, 2002, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council confirmed the April 2001 decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (ECCA) ruling that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional, and unanimously struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder in St Vincent and six other countries. The JCPC made one modification to the ECCA's ruling, saying that sentences should be set by a judge and not a jury. All death row cases in these countries had to be reviewed.
The executions of three prisoners on February 13, 1995 were the first on the island since 1991. The death warrant was issued four days prior to execution. Following the executions, local human rights organizations charged that the process was conducted in virtual secrecy and called on the Government to allow death row prisoners the right to a hearing before the Mercy Committee prior to the issuing of a death warrant.
In 2017 as in 2016, no death sentence was recorded and at the end of 2017, Patrick Lovelace remained the country’s lone death row inmate. In March 2014, the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal refused an application by his lawyers for extension of time to file an appeal against his sentence. However, on 26 February 2015, Patrick Lovelace was granted leave to appeal his sentence to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
In 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations, recommended that “in light of the continued existence of the death penalty,” legal aid should be ensured to people accused of serious crimes. The Committed observed that Hughes and Spence v. The Queen , which determined that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional, was a welcome development, and the Committee invited the State to consider full abolition.
On December 19, 2016, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines voted again against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.