AG: We hope to have Bail Act amendments passed in July


Tribune Staff Reporter


MONTHS after the government tabled an amendment to the Bail Act in the House of Assembly, Attorney General Carl Bethel revealed yesterday officials are hoping to have the bill passed in July.

Giving his 2020/21 budget communication in the Senate yesterday, Mr Bethel outlined a number of initiatives that will better improve the bail process, once the amendment has been passed. One such initiative includes full implementation of the new bail management system.

Once fully implemented, Mr Bethel said, “it will provide an electronic and secure method for persons on bail to check in to meet the bail conditions using biometric finger print verification.

“…It will also provide alerts to the police, to the court and the council should there be a breach of bail conditions and it will create a realistic statistical report for person on bail to the extent to which they complied etc.

“Plus, it will give a broad picture to overall management of bail in the coming months and this has been taken over by the judiciary. The (chief justice and the judiciary) is driving it, they’re ready to go so hopefully in July we will pass the amendment to the Bail Act, in which will get this fully operational.”

He continued: “It will also provide a methodology for indigent prisoners in the department of correction to make their all bail application electronically, so it’s vitally needed.”

Last December, the Minnis administration tabled the Bail (Amendment) Bill in the House of Assembly, with officials saying it will enable magistrates to grant bail in certain matters and to provide rules to regulate bail application procedures.

Once passed, the new bill will likely be seen as a significant improvement in the eyes of many judges, who previously noted the 2016 amendment as “counter-productive” and a “sore issue.”

Under the 2016 amendment, magistrates were not allowed to grant bail in offences involving intentional libel, assault, stealing and other previously bailable offences.

However, with the new amendment, magistrates will be able to grant bail for drug possession with intent to supply and several other certain firearms matters.

Addressing other initiatives aimed to be implemented in this upcoming fiscal year, Mr Bethel also said officials will be introducing a new integrated case management system, which will include an electronic filing feature, e-notifications and messaging functionality and integrated digital recording and transcript software.

“Once implemented the integrated case management system will move the judiciary substantially closer to a paperless court system,” he said. “Request for proposals have already been received from seven firms and the selection process for a suitable vendor is well underway.

“The second key initiative of the Office of the Judiciary is the intent to modernise the courts through the digitisation and migration of court documents and dockets, which will subsequently result in the reduction and better management of the overall volume of hard- copy/paper information.

During yesterday’s address, Mr Bethel explained the challenges faced in other departments. For example, he said there was a need for more resources at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He said: “In terms of relevant numbers and ratios, there are only 34 prosecutors at ODPP at present, deployed to support the criminal investigations work of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the prosecution of approximately 400 indictable matters annually entering the criminal justice system.

“Nevertheless, in the face of all of its challenges, the ODPP has maintained a 70 percent conviction rate. With the addition of more reinforcing resources in due course, and God’s grace, the sky is the limit for the ODPP.”

As it relates to the Office of the Public Defender, Mr Bethel also noted a need for additional attorneys at the department.

“There are presently four public defenders, supervised by chief public defender, Stanley Rolle, all of whom are doing a yeoman’s job. However, additional attorneys are needed, so we encourage persons with a spirit of community mindedness and zeal for justice to consider this as a career choice,” he said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment