IN THE Senate on Wednesday Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson acted as though she had made an unusual discovery. It appeared, she said, that the “courts have become a revolving door” for criminals who are released to the streets, only to repeat their crimes.
This is nothing new. In 2009, these “revolving doors” were a recurring theme in this column as we pointed to a court system that seemed to be completely unaware of the crisis to which it appeared to be a major contributor. The “revolving door” syndrome was a frequent complaint of retired Police Commissioner Reginald Ferguson, who noted that his force was tired of night after night chasing the same rogues. He too was critical of the courts.
In the short time that he has headed the force, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade, has also commented on the ease with which serious offenders are returned to the streets to await a trial date. His focus was also fixed on the judicial system, which he hoped would assist the police in ridding society of the criminal element.
During her contribution to the Budget debate in the Senate, Mrs Gibson gave statics from four of the five criminal courts between January 1 and June 18 this year of persons with criminal records who had been granted bail and used their time out in society to reoffend.
On the previous day, National Security Minister Bernard Nottage had announced that in the past 13 months 49 persons accused of murder had been released on bail.
Mrs Gibson referred to several similar cases, one of them of a man who, charged with murder, “was released twice on bail and is now in the system charged with three murders”. What is wrong with a court system that would release such a repeat offender?
It is only in recent times that anyone charged with murder could even be considered for bail.
Of course, the reason for this is that the courts are working under such handicaps — to which many defence lawyers contribute — that they cannot deliver “quick justice”. In 18th century London, the courts certainly knew the meaning of swift justice — eight and half minutes on average for each case, no matter how serious. An outbreak of typhoid fever kept things moving, because the court was afraid of contamination.
We are not suggesting that we adopt such a system here, but something certainly has to be done — and soon — to deliver sound, and efficient justice with the good of society constantly in mind.
As a result, the FNM before it left office tried to do something about the problem by introducing the ankle bracelet, the CCTV cameras and a packet of stiffer penalties. The new amendments in the Bail Act, for example, made it impossible for magistrates to give bail in certain cases.
Although the PLP promised stiffer laws, National Security Minister Nottage made his first serious mistake a few weeks after his government had been elected and even before the first meeting of parliament. He had listened to the complaints of some of the criminals against the “too tough” laws, and promised that his government would review them.
Going soft on crime was his first mistake. After 13 months of seeing nothing but failure, he is now trying to catch up by taking a tougher stand.
Our editorial, “More criminals back on the streets”, was written on May 21, 2009, a month after Welsh businessman Hywel Jones was shot and killed by a “hit” man as he walked to his Goodman’s Bay Corporate Centre on West Bay Street. The case was drawn out for an inordinately long time. Eventually, a man was charged. Despite what appeared to be concrete palm and fingerprint evidence, the accused “hit man” was acquitted and released.
This is a case that refuses to die a quiet death. It is certainly damaging this country’s reputation for fair justice as it takes on the police — “from which no help can be expected” — an “intimidated” jury, and “crafty lawyers wheeling and dealing behind the scenes”.
The complaints against the handling of the case is related by the banker’s brother, Illyd Jones, a film location manager in Hollywood, who spent a lot of time in the Bahamas after his brother’s death getting the “royal run-around”.
In a recording of his talk, Jones discusses the murder, the police investigation, and, generally, shares his views and experiences of dealing with Bahamian authorities.
Jones delivered a report of his experiences at the annual OffshoreAlert Conference held at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, Miami Beach, on May 6 this year. Headed “Fraud and murder in the Bahamas: The Hywel Jones Affair”, it was presented by David Marchant and is now on YouTube.
It certainly presents a good case as to why foreign police officers with no ties to the Bahamas should be attached to our Royal Bahamas Police Force, certainly for special cases like the Jones affair.