Disgusted by the daily bloodshed and lawlessness sweeping the country, Roman Catholic priest Father Ian Taylor is calling for the death penalty to be swiftly reinstated.
In delivering the sermon during Mass on Saturday night at the St Charles RC Church in Tunapuna, Taylor said the country may never come to terms with last week's killing of bank employee Shannon Banfield.
Saying that the "country was in a state," Taylor demanded that Banfield's killers from "top to bottom" face the hangman within the soonest possible time, as he prayed for justice to be delivered to the young woman's family.
"Don't think that criminals are sorry. These men have become hardened criminals. We should feel sorry for the victims and you should be sorry for the victims' families," he told the congregation.
"If you take someone's life then you will pay the penalty of your life."
He explained that this was the right of the State, which the Roman Catholic Church had previously asked the State not to carry out in a show of mercy to criminals. However, said while he himself would like to see the death penalty reinstated due to the current level of lawlessness, the Church cannot demand that the State hang criminals.
"If the State needs the death penalty to protect its citizenry then let it (State) do so and let it exercise it knowing that God has given the State the right to take life if you murder," Taylor said.
"We need to pray that the laws in this country are implemented and let it be done so that criminals will take heed. The country has gone lawless and people need to be punished for breaking the laws and that includes people in high places because they are the real criminals. Corrupt men must be brought to justice."
Banfield, 20 of Mc Carthy Street, Cantaro Village, Santa Cruz, was last seen leaving her work place–RBL's Independence Square branch–around 4 pm last Monday. She had told her mother, Sherry-Ann Lopez, via phone she was leaving work to purchase items at IAM and company.
Her decomposing body was found last Thursday in a storeroom of the third floor of the building located at Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain.
Taylor said criminals had become so brazen that they were unafraid of the police and of being locked up, adding that jail had become "a nice thing where there were cellphones and even a flat screen TV."
The priest also lambasted the Police Service for its poor response when his own church was recently robbed. He said he had given the police footage from CCTV cameras showing a man pretending to be a member of the congregation before stealing the offering and calmly walking out of the church.
"After I put everything on a flash drive and give it to the police, the policeman turn and ask me, 'Well father, what you want to do?' Imagine that. I should have told him show me where the man is so I could run after him myself," Taylor said.
He called for prayers to be offered up to the Police Service, which he said desperately needed to weed out its rogue cops.
On the case where a murder accused was allowed to conduct business at a bank unsupervised by police, Taylor said, "That is how we operating now. Somebody smoking something."
He called on the congregation and the wider community to join forces to combat the crime scourge, firstly by taking communities back from criminal elements. He said discussions were being held to have activities within the parish so that peace could be restored.
Taylor's sermon was not the only case in which citizens showed their disgust over Banfield and other people's murders over the weekend. There were two public events in memory of Banfield yesterday in Port-of-Spain, while the families of those murdered over the weekend also spoke openly about the crime scourge and the police and Government's inability to get a handle on it.
Asked after the Mass whether the death penalty would be a deterrent, Taylor said no one, not even criminals, wanted to die, adding, however, that the death penalty must be exercised frequently. He said personally he did not hold the position that the death penalty should be abolished.
"Secondly, it must be a form of retribution. There must be a form of punishment to suit the crime. When you commit murder the penalty is your life and that is what the scripture says," he said.
"And the State also has the duty to protect its citizens, because when a person's life is gone they cannot repeat crimes but when a person gets 15 years and they come out they can repeat what has happened."
On whether he was worried there may backlash regarding his statements, Taylor said, "I think for myself."