By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
STATE Minister for National Security Keith Bell offered harrowing statistics in the Senate yesterday about the fate that sometimes await people who are released on bail.
He noted that this year, 22 per cent of this country’s murder victims were on bail for a major offence when they were killed. In 2014, he said, this figure represented 25 per cent of murder victims.
“In 2014, we had 123 murders,” he said, during his contribution to the budget debate. “Of those persons murdered, some 30 persons were on bail for serious offences, including rape, armed robbery and murder. That represents 25 per cent of the homicide rate. For the year 2015, 16 persons on bail for various serious criminal offences have been murdered. That represents some 22 per cent of our homicide rate. While the attorney general continues to make inroads through our Swift Justice initiate, we are confined by our laws and the capacity of the system.”
“Madam President, a person who is on bail for murder introduces an explosive situation to a community,” he added. “The family or friends of the victim, the alleged killer’s family and many innocent lives are now drawn into an explosive situation. Then to support their criminal enterprise, they think nothing to rob, steal or kill. After all, what do they have to lose?”
He added: “As a matter of fact, just night before last, we had an individual that was executed, not murdered, executed. When he was executed the individual was on bail for murder.”
Mr Bell was referring to the murder of Pedro Dean, a man who was shot in the head on Sunday. Dean was on bail after being charged with two murders in 2014.
He noted other instances of accused who were released on bail only to be killed days or weeks later.
At one point, he spoke of a man who was released on bail despite a murder charge on April 13, 2011, only to be “executed” on May 23 of that year.
“We had a case where a person (released on bail) was executed in one week. We’ve had five cases where persons were executed in two weeks. We’ve had 138 cases collectively over the (last six years) where persons were executed in four months and we’ve had 19 cases where a person released on bail was executed in one and a half years...This is what we are up against.”
Mr Bell emphasised his government’s commitment to clamping down on the number of people granted bail in effort to reduce the murder rate.
He noted that as the Office of the Attorney General seeks to address the backlog of cases that it has to deal with, it must grapple with the hundreds of people granted bail under the former Ingraham administration.
“Between the years 2007 and 2011, some 7,541 persons were released on bail from the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (formerly Her Majesty’s Prison).”
“ . . .This is what we face as a government because we are now dealing with some 7,500 cases,” Mr Bell added.
“And you can’t just try murder cases. You have to try armed robbery cases too. You have to try the rape cases. You have to try the burglary cases. All of those are strictly indictable offences which are triable only by adjourning.”