Law & Order on Utila or the Lack Thereof

October 26th, 2012
by Gunter Kordovsky

[private] V10-11-Utila PerspectiveThe last hanging on Utila was in 1905, when Bob McField was hung from a mango tree near the cemetery for killing all the people on the Olympia, a freighter, then sinking the boat off Jack Neals Bight in deep water.

The heroine was Elsie Morgan, who escaped after being shot in the shoulder by McField, crossed the island, despite her wounds, and identified McField as the killer. The court acted swiftly, and the killer dangled at the end of a rope – swift justice and a fitting punishment for an outrageous crime, something almost unheard of today, when criminals seem to have more rights than their victims.

When I arrived on this beautiful island in 1970, there still was a semblance of law and order. There was the famous/infamous “No Shirt Law,” whereby you could end up in jail for five days for going without a shirt. Hester Thompson was chief of police at that time – a lady with a lot of backbone and clout! Uttering a four-letter word could cost you a fine. Motorcycles were locked up for speeding. Crime was minimal. One hardly bothered to lock one’s doors in the good old days.

There used to be a very effective remedy for low-lifes who insisted on being bad! It was called “duppy assin’.” In Utila lingo, “duppy” stands for “ghost,” and an “assin’” is a beating. In the army we called it a “blanket party.” A group of guys who had had enough of the low-lifes got together, grabbed the punk and carried him into the bush. There he received a proper treatment and was then tied to a tree to entertain the mosquitoes and sand flies for a night. He was told in no uncertain terms that the next time he would not be coming back.

Now, more than 40 years later, we have gotten so soft on crime that the old saying “Crime does not pay” is a thing of the past. Men have turned into cowards who would rather look away and pretend crime doesn’t exist.

There is an old saying: “All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men (as well as woman) to do nothing.”As you read your daily newspaper you can see we have arrived at that point. Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world and also rates as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The majority of the crimes are happening on the mainland and are mostly drug or gang related; but the Bay Islands are hardly crime free.

Being a major tourist destination it should be totally unacceptable for Utila to let the local criminals prey on our visitors, who are a big part of the economy. Zero crime tolerance is perhaps a Utopia. But we are suffering under the most absurd and idiotic justice system I have ever seen anywhere. I have been myself the victim of many cleanouts, to the point where I started to be paranoid to leave my house to go diving of for my run.

What I have seen of police work is a mockery. If you are under 18, you can break the law as much as you want. It’s treated as a misdemeanor. A local diveshop owner finally had enough and decided to press charges against some of the worst offenders. He told me that in the court in Roatan he was treated like he was the criminal. But after spending a huge amount of money and a lot of frustrated effort, he finally got some of the worst offenders behind bars. Unfortunately there are always new ones to take their place.

Perhaps we need some of that good Old Time Justice. It worked then; why can’t it work now?

Where are people like Miss Hester when we need them? When will this mockery of justice be put to a end? Perhaps the old folks and the old duppy assin‘ weren’t all wrong. [/private]

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