Saint Lucia Country Profile

11/02/2015

Key Statistics

Population: 182,300 (World Bank, 2013)

Capital: Castries

Official Languages: English, French patois

Major Ethnic Groups: black/African descent 85.3%, mixed 10.9%, East Indian 2.2%, other 1.6%, unspecified 0.1%

GDP per Capita (current US dollars): 8,169 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 13,168 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: Saint Lucia has no official armed force. It relies on a paramilitary force consisting of an estimated 116 men and women.

Small Arms: there are no specific numbers of firearms in Saint Lucia (Gun Policy, 2015)

Military Expenditure: n/a

Executive Summary

Saint Lucia has seen its violence rate climb over the past decade, much like other countries in the Eastern Caribbean. The country serves as a transit point in the international drugs trade and has a number of domestic gangs who engage in burglary, the local drug trade and homicide. Organised crime-linked violence is noted by outside observers as being a serious concern in Saint Lucia.

The justice system does not appear to suffer from corruption but a serious case backlog is an on-going issue. Such delays exacerbate prison overcrowding, with almost half of detainees on remand or pre-trial detention.

In the security sector, while the police force enjoys a high level of public confidence, there are serious concerns about brutality and potentially unlawful killings. These issues, combined with inefficiencies in the judiciary have hindered Saint Lucia’s efforts to tackle crime.

Supporting an on-going modernisation of the police force, pushing for improvements on police conduct and vetting procedures, and assisting measures to cut the backlog in the judicial system are actions which could help improve Saint Lucia's institutional capacities.

Security and Justice Context

Like most islands in the Eastern Caribbean, Saint Lucia has been affected by the international drugs trade, and with it has seen a corresponding rise in violent crime over the past decade. Since 2000, the homicide rate has almost doubled from 14.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants to 25.5 per 100,000 in 2012 (See Figure 1.). According to the US State Department, organised crime-linked drug violence "plagues" the country.

stlucia1

Fig. 1 Saint Lucia Homicide Rate 2000-2012

Local gangs contribute to key crime rates, with robberies, burglaries and extortion funding domestic drug trafficking operations, according to police sources. Almost 18 percent of respondents in Saint Lucia surveyed in the 2010 United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Citizen Security Survey reported the presence of gangs in their neighbourhoods—the highest rate out of the seven countries[1] surveyed—and 39.7 percent stated that gangs were a big problem. Over 20 percent of respondents in Saint Lucia said that their neighbourhood had experienced gang violence in the preceding year, giving the country the worst ranking in this category.

Police estimates on the number of gang members are unavailable, according to the UNDP, and little information is publicly available on their socio-demographic make-up. Battles for territory, or “turf,” help to drive the murder rate and violent crime. In 2011, 80 percent of all arrests on the island were drug-related, according to the US State Department which stated in 2013 that the increase in violent crime is mostly related to drug gangs.

Like other countries in the Eastern Caribbean, Saint Lucia is used as a transit area for international criminal organizations moving drugs from South America to the United States. The majority of drugs moved through Saint Lucia are marijuana, a narcotic which is also produced on the island, though on a small scale[2] .

Robberies have increased steadily since 2000, according to police figures cited by the United Nations, from around 200 incidents per 100,000 people that year to just over 300 per 100,000 in 2009, though they dropped back to around 230 per 100,000 in 2010. There is also a high rate of burglary, though the figure has stayed around the same for more than a decade -- just under 500 cases per 100,000 people.

Like many Caribbean islands, the incidence of rape is high, rising from 25.0 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 41.1 per 100,000 in 2007. This rate dropped back down to 26.5 in 2008, the latest available figure.

Of the 44 murders recorded in 2012, 24 involved the use of guns, according to police figures, giving Saint Lucia a rate of 54 percent for homicides by firearm. While this is below the rate in other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Kitts and Nevis which all have rates above 70 percent, it is still above the global average of 42 percent. Porous borders and a lack of intelligence contribute to a high incidence of illegal firearms on the island, according to Police Commissioner Vernon Francois. Though there is little data on the number of guns in Saint Lucia, the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP)[3] has estimated that there are some 1.6 million illegal weapons circulating in the whole Caribbean.

Saint Lucia is not a country of primary concern regarding money laundering for the United States, but that which does take place is mostly related to the drugs trade. The State Department notes that a "significant black market exists for smuggled goods," mostly jewellery, with the black market and contraband generating "huge profits" for smugglers and duty free stores.

According to the US State Department, Saint Lucia is a destination for human trafficking victims of forced prostitution and forced labour. Victims often come from the poorer Caribbean nations of Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, with Guyana and South Asia also listed as source counties for Saint Lucia. The country received a Tier 2 rating from the US State Department in 2012 meaning the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards to combat human trafficking, though is making efforts to do so[4] .

An act passed in 2010 prohibits all forms of trafficking with serious penalties, but no investigations or prosecutions have taken place since the law came into effect.

Perceptions of Insecurity

There is little information on the overall perception of insecurity in Saint Lucia. According to the 2010 UNDP Citizen Security Survey, 19.3 percent of the country’s population fear their house will be broken into at night while 22.8 percent fear being robbed at gunpoint. The latter figure meant that Saint Lucia ranked worst on that issue out of the populations surveyed.

Violent crime was regarded by citizens as being the main problem facing the country, with 38 percent of respondents stating this. Only Trinidad and Tobago residents responded similarly out of the seven countries surveyed. The following most important problems in Saint Lucia were unemployment and the cost of living.

Security and Justice Institutions

Justice Institutions

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court[5] (ECSC), headquartered in Saint Lucia’s capital, Castries, administers the country’s judicial system. Three High Court judges[6] and one Master[7] are assigned to Saint Lucia to hear cases from the country’s courts.

Saint Lucia has a High Court and lower district courts that handle lesser criminal and civil cases. Appeals going beyond the High Court can be sent to the ECSC Court of Appeal[8] . Although Saint Lucia is a signatory to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), inaugurated in 2005 as the judicial institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)[9] , final appellate jurisdiction rests with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in the United Kingdom.

The attorney general is the government’s legal advisor and operates within the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Justice. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) heads the country’s principal prosecutorial authority.

Saint Lucia’s ombudsman is the Parliamentary Commissioner who hears and investigates public complaints against the government for alleged injustices. However, allegations of police abuse must be referred by the Parliamentary Commissioner to the Police Commissioner.

Corruption does not appear to be a serious concern in the courts system and the US State Department has stated that the right to a fair trial and an independent judiciary is generally upheld. However, the legal system is noted for being slow, leading to a backlog of cases in the courts system and long stays of pre-trial detention. What’s more, in the 2010 UNDP Citizen Security Survey, Saint Lucia ranked poorly on public confidence in the criminal justice system; only 30.6 percent of respondents rated the capacity of the criminal justice system as sufficient, placing Saint Lucia second to last out of the seven countries surveyed.

A Delay Reduction programme has been in place since 2004 that aims to expedite certain cases but there is little information on its results, and the backlog remains a serious issue. In 2007 administrative and resource issues were blamed for the project not progressing as quickly as planned, though in recent years little has been published regarding its effectiveness.

Saint Lucia has one prison, the Bordelais Correctional Facility, which is overseen by the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security. As of the end of 2011, the prison housed 554 inmates, over 10 percent above its official capacity. Of these, almost half were prisoners on remand and pre-trial detainees. In 2011, the Director of Corrections stated that exacerbating the problem of overcrowding was the oft-used method of handing down a short sentence because the people convicted were unable to afford a fine. The director criticised this, noting that it was helping contribute to a high recidivism rate (46 percent).

Unlike certain Caribbean countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada, Saint Lucia’s prison generally met international standards, according to the US State Department. However, the US non-government organisation (NGO) Freedom House has noted that there are incidences of guards severely beating inmates.

Security Institutions

The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) is the primary agency tasked with domestic law enforcement and numbers between 900 and 1,000 members. The force is housed under the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security.

There have been several reports of police brutality and the use of excessive force in recent years. In 2011, the police were involved in 12 potentially unlawful killings, according to the US State Department, with some alleged to be extrajudicial. Assuming this figure formed part of the 54 murders recorded that year, police killings would have accounted for over 20 percent of all homicides in 2011[10] .

Citizens filing a complaint against the police are able to turn to the independent Police Complaints Commission which came into force in 2004. The oversight body comprises five civilians who refer the complaint to the Police Complaints Unit which investigates the matter. Police shootings, on the other hand, are referred to the Criminal Investigations Division of the police force which sends the case to the DPP who ultimately decides whether to pursue charges or not.

In spite of these avenues for addressing alleged police misconduct, the US State Department has noted that reports of impunity persist. This is largely due to inefficiencies within the justice system, particularly inadequate resources, and strong public and political support for the police. In the 2010 UNDP Citizen Security Survey, 67.3 percent of respondents in Saint Lucia stated that the police deserved their support, the highest such response rate out of the countries surveyed. In addition, 24 percent responded that the RSLPF had respect for citizens’ rights, placing the force second on this issue behind Barbados.

Low pay for entry level police officers, around $500 a month, contributes to low morale, according to Marcus Day, director of the Saint Lucia-based Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, and may leave officers vulnerable to accepting bribes.

The country has no military, meaning the Coast Guard comes under the command of the RSLPF. Saint Lucia is a part of the Regional Security System (RSS) which seeks to promote cooperation between its members[11] in the Eastern Caribbean in drug interdiction efforts and maritime policing, among other areas.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) came to office in 2011 having been elected on a manifesto that made national security a priority.  Among the SLP’s stated goals were strengthening the police force and combating corruption within it through stricter vetting procedures, including polygraph testing. Also, the SLP aims to improve the justice system and battle socio-economic issues that contribute to crime.

However, in December 2012 the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) criticised the government for failing to release a crime prevention plan during its first year in office that would have laid out its stated goals in a strategy.

State of Security and Justice Sector Reform

Justice Sector Reform and Initiatives

A number of legislative and capacity-building measures have been introduced in recent years in an attempt to strengthen the Saint Lucia justice system, though many have yet to be implemented and appear to be in the proposal stage. There have been repeated calls by officials to use existing capital punishment laws to deal with rising crime on the island, though this has not yet manifested itself in any executions—the last one was in 1995.

Tougher gun and dangerous weapon laws were introduced in January 2011, which include mandatory ten-year jail sentences for illegal firearms possession, with increased penalties if offenders are found with ammunition.

In March 2011, Saint Lucia received assistance from Canada to investigate alternative forms of sentencing for drug addicts—something which could lessen the burden on the prison system—though it is unclear whether any such measures have been introduced as a result.

In May 2011, the government took steps to strengthen its legal capacities, with permanent secretaries and senior public officers receiving training in administrative and constitutional law.

In her April 2012 Throne Speech, Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy announced plans for a number of legislative initiatives and/or amendments, including anti-gang legislation (the details of which were not specified), and the consideration of an Electronic Monitoring Bill to track people on bail or parole. Neither of these appear to have been pushed forward at the time of writing.

Efforts to tackle money laundering were a particular focus of the speech, with planned amendments to legislation including the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority Act announced. As part of these measures to combat money laundering, NGOs would be more closely monitored to ensure they were not laundering illicit funds, and civil forfeiture was being considered. In 2013 the US State Department said Saint Lucia's government was committed to introducing civil forfeiture as an amendment to the Money Laundering Act currently being considered by parliament.

The US State Department noted in 2013 that there have been calls for a witness protection programme to respond to the increase in violent crime, including the murders of witnesses in drug trafficking cases. These appear not to have materialised into a concrete initiative yet.

Under the Caribbean Security Basin Initiative (CBSI), a US-government funded aid programme, Saint Lucia is being assisted in implementing a modern criminal code, national prosecution service, code of conduct for prosecutors, and witness charter, according to a December 2012 update.

Security Sector Reform and Initiatives

The Saint Lucia government has made significant efforts to strengthen its crime fighting and prevention capacities in recent years with a string of police initiatives focusing on drug trafficking and increased community engagement, among other areas.

In 2011 the government announced new investment to increase police numbers, install a CCTV system (paid for by the US) in the north of the island to monitor criminal hot-spots, procure a fingerprint identification system and buy new police vehicles.

The government has asked retired police officers and NGOs to advise on crime fighting in an attempt to build a more collaborative effort, and requested the private sector to support programmes for young people who may be at-risk. In addition, in January 2013 Police Commissioner Vernon Francois announced plans for a series of community town hall meetings aimed at improving police-community ties.

With regard to strengthening police capacities, in September 2011 the United States provided training in cyber-forensics as part of its anti-terrorism assistance. In that same month the standard police training programme for incoming officers was improved with the addition of mentoring by experienced officers.

In her April 2012 Throne Speech Governor General Louisy announced plans to continue a modernisation of the police force, with preparation of a new Police Bill (which will update the existing Police Act) a part of that.

In January 2013, under the CBSI Saint Lucia police were trained in crime scene processing, with 24 police officers successfully completing the "first responder" crime scene course, with the aim of lessening the reliance on eye-witness testimony. Leadership training was also carried out with support from the United States.

A CBSI update from the US in December 2012 announced Saint Lucia is receiving logistical and maintenance support to increase counter-narcotics operations and maritime interdictions, and training and equipment to improve homicide investigations and community policing.

In 2011, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) adopted the Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a regional initiative aimed at reducing gun crime in the region and improving regional cooperation in the field of arms trafficking.

Parliamentary/Congressional Capacity for Oversight

Saint Lucia's parliament is bicameral, consisting of the lower House of Assembly with 17 elected members and the upper Senate with 11 members appointed by the Governor General. The legislature is constitutionally independent from the executive and is responsible for the making and passing of laws, and providing oversight.

Security and Justice Opportunities

In Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Saint Lucia received the second-best score in the Caribbean regarding corruption, behind only Barbados and level with The Bahamas. Overall, Saint Lucia ranked 22nd out of 176 countries surveyed. This suggests corruption should not pose a significant obstacle to successful engagement with the government on reform initiatives.

Justice Sector Opportunities

Although Saint Lucia's justice system is generally thought to uphold basic principles, the serious delays in processing cases and the low rates of citizen confidence in the criminal justice system are areas of concern. Efforts to renew and boost delay reduction programmes that address the case backlog would be welcome. Furthermore, exploring the possibility of better training legal professionals and helping with the implementation of a new prosecutor’s code is advised. These measures could go some way to improving efficiency in the legal system.

As the director of corrections has noted, the willingness of judges to impose a short sentence due to the inability of the convicted to pay a fine is placing enormous strain on the already overburdened prison facility. Helping the government explore community service programmes as an alternative to prison type for minor offences could alleviate prison overcrowding.

Security Sector Opportunities

Reports of police killings and brutality are the main concern regarding Saint Lucia's security institutions, despite the strong citizen support for the police. The training programmes underway and proposed under CBSI should go some way to helping improve the quality of policing and lessen abuses. However, the high number of killings by officers and high impunity rates suggest more serious reform may be required. Supporting the strengthening of vetting procedures and ensuring that the police remain fully accountable to civilian oversight mechanisms is advised. Regarding the issue of police impunity, this will likely be addressed as a result of tackling inefficiencies in the judicial system.

Civil Society Actors to Engage With

Saint Lucia does not have a particularly strong civil society sector with regards to security and justice. The national NGOs that are present focus primarily on education, health and gender issues. One of the most prominent is the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, which offers counselling and refuge services to victims of domestic violence.

Resources

American Caribbean Law Institute–Stetson University College of Law, “Saint Lucia Case Study 2009,” Spring 2009

Canineu, M, “The Role of Ombuds Agencies in Police Accountability in the Commonwealth,” Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative,No publication date available

Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2012–Saint Lucia,” August 2012

Government of St Lucia: Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy "2012 Throne Speech," April 2012

Organisation of American States, "Report on Citizen Security in the Americas 2012," May 2012

Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2012,” December 2012

United Nations Development Programme, “Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security,” February 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control,” March 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume II: Money Laundering and Financial Crimes; Country Database," May 2012

U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking In Persons Report 2012," June 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control,” March 2013

Endnotes

[1] The seven countries were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

[2] The 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report by the US State Department quoted reports from St. Lucian officials that they had eradicated 23 of an estimated 25 acres of marijuana, destroying approximately 400,000 grown plants. St. Lucia reported total seizures in 2011 that included 438 kg of cannabis, 199 kg of cocaine.

[3] The ACCP has a membership of 24 Caribbean nations and is designed to facilitate cooperation between the region’s police forces and help with the development of officers’ technical skills and professionalism. 

[4] Tier 1 is the best possible ranking, followed by Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3.

[5] The ECSC is the superior court for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) members. This includes six independent states and three British Overseas Territories.

[6] At the time of writing it was unclear exactly how many High Court judges were assigned to Saint Lucia; the ECSC website stated three, though other sources stated four.

[7] A Master of the High Court exercises the authority and jurisdiction a judge.

[8] The Court of Appeal moves about the OECS when it is required.

[9]  CARICOM is an organisation comprised of 15 nations and aims to promote economic integration and cooperation between its member states.

[10] As a point of comparison, the police force in the Dominican Republic accounted for over 15 percent of all murders in the country from 2005-2010.

[11] The 1996 treaty creating the RSS was signed by Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Igarapé Institute

The Igarapé Institute is a southern think tank devoted to evidence-based policy and action on complex social challenges including global drug policy, citizen security and international cooperation. Its goal is to stimulate humane engagement on emerging security and development issues. Across all its programs, the Institute adopts a three-prong approach:

  1. Diagnose challenges through cutting-edge research;
  2. Trigger informed debate and action across public and private spheres; and
  3. Design tailor-made solutions that are people-centered.
Organisation

The International Security Sector Advisory Team

The International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) provides practical support to the international community in its efforts to improve security and justice, primarily in conflict-affected and fragile states. It does this by working with a group of member states and institutions to develop and promote good security and justice reform practices and principles, and by helping its members to build their capacity to support national and regional security and justice reform processes.

Organisation