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Lawyers Are Uneasy Over Judge Restrictions

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

THE Prime Minister’s announcement that if necessary, the government will pass laws to bind the hands of judges and prevent them from granting bail to persons accused of serious crimes is not sitting well with some attorneys.

Speaking to The Tribune after Mr Christie named this as one several measures to tackle escalating crime, a group of attorneys expressed the view that the courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private interests.

Dr Glendon Rolle said: “Judicial independence is vital and important to a growing country. The government’s attempt to find a quick Band Aide solution to crime seems to be the order of the day when it comes to governance.

“The audacious suggestion to tie the hands of judges granting bail lacks wisdom primarily because we do have constitutional rights as Bahamians and any attempts to derail those rights would lead to further problems.

“One must note that the principle of judicial independence is one of the core values of the justice. We need to stop acting on impulses and step back, review a plan forward that would benefit us as a people moving forward.

“An attempt for government to interfere with our competent judges would result in injustice for our nation.”

One week ago in a press conference following a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Christie told reporters that “the government is fully prepared to legislatively intervene to impose additional restrictions on the ability of judges to grant bail in offences involving crimes of violence and the use of firearms.”

Attorneys like Stanley Rolle, Christina Galanos and Krysta Mason-Smith share Dr Rolle’s views regarding the statement made by the nation’s chief.

Mr Rolle said if the government were to carry out said legislative change, “the Court of Appeal will rule it unconstitutional based on the separation of powers and state.”

“Any law inconsistent with the constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistent point,” he added.

Ms Galanos agreed, and further asked the government, “What happens to the presumption of innocent until proven guilty? I guess they will amend that too.”

Mrs Mason-Smith said the move would “completely undermine the presumption of innocence.”

“Often lay persons are already of the view that once arrested for anything, a man is guilty – that is, until it is some family member or close to them.

“And for the record, bail is not an automatic right in any event because an accused man, and I put emphasis on accused, must satisfy certain criteria to be admitted to bail.”

In November 2011, parliament passed legislation removing the jurisdiction of Magistrates to consider bail for capital offences such as murder, attempted murder, rape, armed and attempted armed robbery, possession of dangerous drugs, among others.

While awaiting formal arraignment in Supreme Court, an accused can exercise the legal right to apply for bail to this court.

If the court wishes to consider the application, a date is set to hear arguments from the Crown and defence.

Bail may be approved or rejected depending on, but not limited to, the following considerations: nationality and ties to the country, antecedents or lack thereof, strength of the evidence, chance of re-offending if granted bail, witness intimidation/interference; and protection from possible retaliation by incarceration.

Noting the country’s concern about escalating crime, Dr Rolle also said it was important to acknowledge that “the issues we are now experiencing didn’t just surface”.

“They have been brewing in our nation for many years; the human infidelity towards each other has now materialised itself. Lies, deceit, malice, promises, and hatred seem to be the order of today which results in destruction” he said.

Comments

B_I_D___ 4 years, 8 months ago

Of course they are...there are big bucks to be had by the criminal element to keep them out of jail...if they end up in jail or with no bail, the lawyers ain't gonna get paid!!

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atwr 4 years, 8 months ago

totally agree with the above comment....

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CommonSense 4 years, 8 months ago

He who feels it knows it. Let these smarmy lawyers continue to defend their criminals. I know someone that Christina defended and got out of jail...biggest mistake.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm not a lawyer, there were a lot of weird statements in his response...I thought this one sounded a little off..

basically then he's announced that he is Maximum Leader, he will control the court and he will control the police. Perry Christie's inability to think and to spurt nonsense while he isn't thinking is scary....

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proudloudandfnm 4 years, 8 months ago

So. Someone breaks into your house, you grab your shotgun, the perp runs. You follow them outside and shoot them on the street. Cops charge you with murder. Bail?

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 8 months ago

Sadly...technically, you are only meant to use your weapon in self defense of life or property...if the perp has left your property, and you chase after him and shoot him in the street, yes, that is murder. No bail. If he is still on your property and your shotgun is legal and licensed, then you stand a fighting chance.

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MarkTa 4 years, 8 months ago

I rather kill the criminal that puts my life in danger and take my chances in court than get killed by the criminal.

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MarkTa 4 years, 8 months ago

So you are saying that if a criminal breaks into your home and endangers your life you should hand him that life as a law abiding citizen.

To each their own i suppose

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nationbuilder 4 years, 8 months ago

obviously christie doesnt know what the law already says on this matter

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 8 months ago

The Constitution says that a person jailed having not been able to secure a court date and have a TRIAL in court within a "reasonable time" shall be granted bail or released as not guilty by the courts.

However, what is happening now is people are being released in just a few days or weeks or two months. The former accepted time for "reasonable time" was 3 years maximum and some were released in under two years. That is fine.

If the Courts can't give someone a trial in even ONE year then they should be simply set free and the charges against them expunged - in my opinion.

But, 2 days or 2 weeks is much too soon.

The article says that they can apply for Bail to "this court" - Does this mean that the reason people can't get trials in "this court" is because 'this court' is too busy hearing Bail applications to actually hold trials?

Perhaps we need a separate court (in a separate building with separate judges and staff) to hear Bail applications - so that the Supreme Court can get on with holding trials instead of postponing them.

TheMadHatter

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