By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Bar Council President, Ruth Bowe-Darville, is calling on the Bahamas to take a firm legislative position on the death penalty.
Her remarks came during a meeting of the Bahamas Constitutional Commission yesterday where she represented the Council’s position on several areas of constitutional reform.
“The country needs to determine its position on the death penalty,” Mrs. Bowe-Darville said, “We are being urged on by several international agencies that firmly pronounce against the death penalty and then there is the legal precedent of Pratt and Morgan vs The Attorney General of Jamaica that has reduced many sentences to life imprisonment due to the inordinate and excessive delay in carrying out a lawful sentence.”
She also warned against the haste of implementing the Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the Privy Council as the most influential body to advise the head of state of the nation.
“Regrettably, there is no firm resolve by Bar members for replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice. However, whether we sign on to the CCJ or retain the Privy Council, the decisions of our final court must be observed by the Executive as well as the judicial and legislative branches of our country, so that respect for the Rule of Law is entrenched in our culture. Perhaps, now is not the time for the CCJ,” she said.
Mrs. Bowe-Darville also called for the establishment of several new appointments with the Judicial system, including an Office of an Independent Director of Public Prosecutions, an Office of Public Defender, and the establishment of an Ombudsman.
“In re-assessing the needs of our country and being forever cognizant of the prevailing social and economic ills in our society, the introduction of an Office of an Independent Director of Public Prosecutions as an entrenched provision of our Constitution is welcomed. Such an office should in principle alleviate the burden on the Office of the Attorney General in the area of criminal prosecution. However, such an office must be given the autonomy to perform the task, sans political interference,” she said.
“Further the proposition should also extend to the establishment of an Office of Public Defender. Such a department could ultimately be a boost to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, it will complement it. It is proposed there be a recommendation for the establishment of an Ombudsman. This office, like that of the independent Director of Public Prosecutor, will require the appointment of a person with a significant degree of independence who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing the complaints of maladministration or violation of rights. The Ombudsman generally seeks to promote and protect human rights,” she said.