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Violate Bail And You Could Get Five Years In Prison

Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage.

Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage.

By SANCHESKA BROWN

Tribune Staff Reporter

sbrown@tribunemedia.net

NATIONAL Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage yesterday introduced legislation in the House of Assembly that would make violating bail an offence punishable with up to a $50,000 fine and/or up to five years in prison.

Addressing parliamentarians, Dr Nottage said currently if a person is found to be in violation of his bail conditions, he would only be charged with a minor offence. Once the amendment to the Bail Act is passed, however, a person who is found guilty of violating the terms of his bail will be charged with the crime he committed while on bail as well as face a “very serious penalty”.

Dr Nottage said currently there are 358 persons on bail wearing ankle-monitoring bracelets. Some of these persons, according to the minister, have been charged with multiple murders and multiple armed robberies. He said the bracelets are extremely useful if operated properly, however many persons out on bail do not follow the terms of their release and in spite of the conditions, reoffending is still “high.”

“In the average case, when an offender is given bail the magistrate or the judge may impose some conditions. The conditions are you must report to the police station every Friday afternoon before 6 or you must report three times a week, or there may be a curfew and you must not be out on the street between 9am and 6am,” Dr Nottage said yesterday afternoon.

“Those are some conditions, you are to go to work, you are free to move about, but once 9pm comes you are to stay inside at a specific location or there are certain areas you must not go. Persons still seem to be committing crimes in spite of these conditions. So this law is an amendment to the Bail Act and is creating a violation of bail conditions to an offence. An offence, which on summary conviction exposes you to being found guilty to a fine not exceeding $50,000. “Now that is not a mandatory $50,000, the judges have indicated they are not legally bound by mandatory penalties, but the amendment says you can be fined up to $50,000 and five years in prison for the violate of bail conditions.”

Dr Nottage said one of the conditions violated frequently is reporting to the police station. He said it is not very well controlled “by persons who work in police stations or officers who are in charge of police stations” and sometimes the matter is a communication problem with the judge.

Dr Nottage said an additional problem when it comes to bail is persons who post multiple bonds for several people and use “the same property to sign for a number of persons.” He said he would like this practice “stopped very soon.”

He also said persons who are granted bail are often victims of serious crimes themselves. According to Dr Nottage, in 2014, 30 persons were murdered while wearing ankle-monitoring bracelets.

Despite being opposed to bail for serious crimes, Dr Nottage advocated for bail for minor offences such as possession of a small amount of marijuana or vagrancy. He said the prison, which currently holds over 1,600, is overcrowded and the government needs to find a way to “stop jailing our young men.”

“Under the (proposed) parole probation system it would create conditions under which persons do not have to be incarcerated for certain crimes. One of the principal ones is a drug related crime, possession of small amounts of marijuana as an example and vagrancy,” Dr Nottage said.

“We are seeking to create alternative sentencing for persons. I sometimes feel like I am being schizophrenic because on the one hand I complain about people getting bail and on the other hand I want people to get bail except we are doing it for different categories of persons. We cannot go on jailing all of our young men without seeking to find ways to reform them and transform them.”

Dr Nottage said he hopes the changes discourage persons from reoffending and decreases the public’s fear of crime.

Comments

Godson 4 years, 4 months ago

BAIL (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Bail (Amendment ) Act, 2016.

  1. Insertion of new sections 12A and 12B in Ch. 103. The Bail Act is amended, by the insertion immediately after section 12, of the following new sections 12A and 12B –

    “12A. Offence of violating conditions of bail. Any person who, having been released on bail in criminal proceedings and who breaches any conditions of bail, commits an offence.


    12B. Penalty for violating conditions of bail. (1) An offence under section 12 A is punishable On summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000.00 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both such fine and term of imprisonment.

EFFECTIVELY... the law as noted makes it “AN OFFENCE TO BREACH A PENALTY BECAUSE YOU BREACHED IT". This is an absurdity. The penalty for breaching any condition set down for bail is inherently and innate in the fact of the ‘bail’ itself.

Constitutionally there is no punishment involved with the decision and exercise of granting bail because, at first instance, it is not an entitled right for any accused person to get bail. It begins as discretion to be exercised by the court. The conditions set down for bail, which is the outcome of the courts’ discretion, do not become law on this simple fact - it only applies to that one individual. Therefore, not being a law, when it is breached, the accused cannot be punished for the breach – only the penalty that was agreed upon should consequential be applied - not any other judicial punishment.

The conditions that are set down by the court do not have the teeth of being laws. It is an understanding undertaken between the court, the guarantor of bail and the accused as to what may or may not happen if the accused does not comply.

If the accused does not comply with the conditions, the court is obliged to carry out what it said it would do in the event of non-compliance - consequently, in the extreme, the court can cancel the bail and have the accused arrested and held in custody until the date of their trial. Or, it can change the conditions for bail.

Constitutional law says a parliament is sovereign; hence, our Parliament has made it 'AN OFFENCE TO BREACH A PENALTY BECAUSE YOU BREACHED IT'. This is an absurdity. It is irrational and beyond logic. The philosopher, Socrates, taught ‘the greatest punishment is where the least of the lesser of the people governs the country’. Should we continue to be governed by them?

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 4 months ago

Yup, clearly nothing but dead gray matter in the first two heads shown in the above photo!

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Godson 4 years, 4 months ago

Excuse me but in case you didn't notice... only one of the heads in the picture above is gray... the other is supposedly dyed...

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Godson 4 years, 4 months ago

Correction; it is 'AN OFFENCE TO BREACH A PENALTY OF BAIL BECAUSE IT HAS THE TITLE OF PENALTY'.

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DillyTree 4 years, 4 months ago

Why are these people even on bail to begin with?

Murder, armed robbery, assault on a child, and the like should have no provision for bail. Period. Build more prisons, make tent camps on the out islands -- I don't care, but these people have lost the right to remain in a civilised society. So many of these people on bail think nothing of committing more crimes while out - often taking care of any potential witnesses at their own trial.

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Godson 4 years, 4 months ago

DillyTree, constitutionally an accused person, in a functioning democracy, is held to be innocent until proven guilty. And therefore, irrespective of the charges as you noted above, one ought not be simple yanked from the ordinary course of living on an account of an accusation.

A person who have not yet been tried for an offence and proven to be guilty - have not "lost the right to remain [free] in a civilised society".

The accused might be supporting a family that relies on them, be it a father or mother, for support. A professional career or need to keep a job or other obligations may be pending.

You should not create a worst social dilemma out of one situation while trying to address another. Hope this answer help to awaken in you the rationality of the need to exercise the discretion of granting bail for accused persons.

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson

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DillyTree 4 years, 4 months ago

Of course, you are absolutely correct -- from a purely legal standpoint in a functioning democracy. But with crime escalating out of control and these very same offenders out on bail or wearing ankle monitors are often repeat offenders.

In a society where the good people live in fear, why should the criminals be the ones will all the rights? I think you're seeing frustration with our dire crime situation -- something must change. Drastic measures must be taken.

I'd rather see someone remanded than have to explain to a mother/father/husband/wife/child/etc that they beloved relative was murdered and isn't coming home ever again because someone was on bail who shouldn't have been -- wouldn't you?

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John 4 years, 4 months ago

This bill is a snare that will capture the wrong prey. The whole purpose of bail violations being na non-criminal offence is based on the premis that one is 'innocent until proven guilty.' So while the bill might be intended to capture and punish individuals who blatantly and purposefully and intentionally violate the terms of their bail and may even commit a crime or even more while on bail. But what about a person who is innocent and gets caught out of his curfew hours, say coming home from work. So he is arrested, taken to court and fined and/or given jail time. Then his trial comes up and he is found "not guilty.' But now he has a criminal record for violating bail conditions for a crime he did not commit in the first instance. So now you must build more jail cells. What about anther instance where someone may be 'set up' to be caught out of his bail restrictions. Then he is given a hefty fine and or jail time. So when his case comes up he is no longer a citizen without prior convictions and so this will bear heavily on his trial. And even if he is charged, the rprobation report at hi sentencing will indicate that he has a prior conviction for bail violation. So care must be taken that a similar situation does not develop like when a young male is killed, the police report says, "he was known to the police, or"he was recently released from prison, or even "the victim was wearing an ankle bracelet."

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Godson 4 years, 4 months ago

DillyTree and John, I'm cognizant of the escalated and out of control crime situation in The Bahamas. I am in agreement that pro-action is needed; and not superficial action that makes the crime situation worst for us and the future generations. The government ministers, their department administrators are incompetent and unread as to the philosophy of law and the sociological impact their ill conceived legislation have on the rest of society.

There is an underpinning aspect of the law that must be factored in when proposing a law to address a mischief. Jeremy Bentham is most referable on the the point, he's the authority on utilitarianism. The questions arise as to what are the social utility of the law proposed. What is its utility or does it amount to absurdity.

The course they are leading us on is in fact producing more criminals and crimes rather than reducing them: 'HURT PEOPLE , HURT PEOPLE!'.

As to living in fear and the criminal having all the rights... I feel your concerns. Mussolini came to power with worse criminal situation than any modern country has had to face. But because we would rather be-devil his legacy, we won't learn from what he did to turn Italy around. FOR HEAVEN SAKE, THE MAN GOT THE TRAIN TO RUN ON TIME'... sounds simple??? but this was an impossibility before Mussolini came to lead Italy.

The blame for not getting control of the crime has to do with leadership capabilities. We deserve what we chose.

Lastly, as to your preference to see a person remanded as apart from being afforded the freedom of movement, you and many others who feel this way are in for a BIG SHOCK!!!

The actual effect of the Amendment to the Bail Act frees the guarantor of their obligations, and, resettles the responsibility of bail on the shoulders of the accused. The government by this act to punish the accused for breach of bail conditions has accepted the responsibility for the decision of bail, and, settles any mishap onto the shoulders of the accused.

So effective from the 24th of February, 2016, all persons who stood bail for accused persons before the courts, to date, are no longer personally responsible and liable and cannot be held responsible for the actions of the accused. The Amendment to the Act, in effect, now shoulders the penalty for non-compliance directly onto the shoulders of the accused persons themselves.

The entrenched rule of law that supports what I am saying is the rule against double jeopardy. YOU CANNOT PUNISH/PENALIZE TWICE FOR THE SAME ACT. The courts cannot hold the guarantor for bail responsible for the misconduct of the accused, and at the same time, by this Amendment, hold the accused responsible for his own misconduct.

Like the flawed Urban Renewal Program, the only thing that has two heads is a monster, in other words, the Amendment created a legal monstrosity rather than address the scourge of crime in The Bahamas.

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson.

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John 4 years, 4 months ago

The simple and most common sense thing to do, when a person violates bail is to levy a penalty and/or revoke bail. These draconian measures serve to make a bad situation worse. Revoke the bail and give a speedy trial and stop the window dressing. It will further conjest and slow down the court system and make criminals of persons who would have been innocent in the first instance.

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