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Bail defended as officials mark opening of the legal year

Attorney General Ryan Pinder, Chief Justice Ian Winder and Bar Association president Khalil Parker at Thursday’s opening of the legal year events. Photos: Dante Carrer

Attorney General Ryan Pinder, Chief Justice Ian Winder and Bar Association president Khalil Parker at Thursday’s opening of the legal year events. Photos: Dante Carrer

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A PROCESSION of Justices, Magistrates, Members of The Bahamas Bar Association and police officers make their way along Bay Street to Christ Church Cathedral to mark the opening of the 2024 legal year yesterday. Photos: Dante Carrer

By RASHAD ROLLE and JADE RUSSELL

Tribune Reporters

THE contentious bail issue took centre stage when lawyers, the attorney general, judiciary members and top police officials marked the opening of the legal year against the backdrop of a soaring murder rate yesterday.

Three days after Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander said bail laws should be amended, Attorney General Ryan Pinder disagreed, but said he had asked the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to be more aggressive in appealing judges’ decisions granting bail.

 Bar Association president Khalil Parker suggested critical commentary about bail reflects an “unhealthy and misguided scapegoating of the judiciary and an undue attack on the administration of justice in this country”.

 Chief Justice Ian Winder explained what judges consider when granting bail and called for a holistic approach to crime fighting, saying: “There is no prohibition on the grant of bail for murder.”

 The bail debate has changed little in more than a decade, and the various sides continued reiterating their familiar positions.

 Mr Pinder said of the 77 people charged with murder last year, two were given bail and allegedly committed another murder the same year, five were given bail and allegedly re-offended for major offences, and 24 were released on bail within the same year.

 He noted the Court of Appeal had denied bail to “protect the safety of the public order” and for the defendant’s protection. He said statistics show people on bail for murder are generally repeat offenders and eventually murder victims.

 “Statistics also show that innocent people are at risk for injury or death because of these retaliatory killings. These in my opinion justify a more aggressive approach by the judiciary in denying bail in murder cases,” he said.

He said prosecutors must be more aggressive in appealing bail judgements in certain circumstances.

He later told reporters the Bail Act is adequate and does not need amending.

Mr Parker, who spoke after Mr Pinder during yesterday’s ceremony, said: “It is far too easy to simply say that too many people are out on bail.”

“Having identified individuals released on bail as a vulnerable class of persons, what we need are policing and other strategies targeted at effectively monitoring and providing such individuals meaningful protection,” he said. “We also have to consider the conditions at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services and whether it is a facility one can reasonably ask anyone to remain for their own safety.”

On Monday, Commissioner Fernander suggested that people accused of serious crimes should not be given bail within two to three months of being charged.

He said the law mandates granting bail within two to three years in such cases –– a claim countered by Chief Justice Winder, who said during his address yesterday: “Contrary to the opinion of some, the law does not prescribe a two-year requirement before an accused can be admitted to bail for the offence of murder.”

He added: “A charge is not a conviction. The fact that the police have alleged that you have committed an offence does not automatically suspend your constitutional rights for two years. The police and the prosecution must demonstrate that there is a basis for the pre-trial detention beyond the fact that it is a murder charge.

“The seriousness of the offence alleged is indeed a very relevant factor, but not the only factor. The nature of the charge and of the evidence available in support thereof, the likely sanction in case of conviction, whether conditions can be put in place to ensure the accused attends at his trial, the accused’s record, if any, the likelihood of interference with witnesses, the need to prevent public endangerment and the safety of the accused are some of the other factors the court must also consider.”

He added: “Attributing blame is not the answer. There is enough for all of us to share.”

Commissioner Fernander declined to respond to what other officials said about bail when reporters approached him yesterday.

“I’ve already laid my concerns,” he said. “All I want us to do now is come together and let’s move forward to address the situation. And I believe that we will do just that.”

Comments

Sickened 3 months, 1 week ago

So many of our officials are content with the amount of murders and the laws surrounding punishment and bail. But yet... I assume that they are also hoping for a drastic reduction in the murder rate and attempted murders (those intentionally shot but are lucky to survive)? Interesting times. Sit back and don't change a thing, while hoping for better results. Welcome to the land of insane leadership.

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AnObserver 3 months, 1 week ago

They'd rather play dress up while blocking traffic for thousands of people trying to get to work.

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AnObserver 3 months, 1 week ago

Do they have any idea how silly they look? The headline right next to this article points out that murder rates are up 150% over last year, while here we see that the Attorney General is busy prancing down Bay Street in a powdered wig. Is this a Monty Python skit, or a nation?

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bahamianson 3 months, 1 week ago

All bahamians love is puppy , peacock show. Look how important I am. Look at my expensive car. I am better than you, Look at my expensive jewelry, Look at my expensive clothes. We are a materialistic society , and it is eating us alive. We are killing because of mo ey and greed. We need to focus on what is important. It is God, family loved ones and friends, no more,no less.

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One 3 months, 1 week ago

They look silly in these wigs and costumes. I thought we were independent, why are we following the traditions of our former masters? Seems like we just took the place of white masters and kept everything else the same.

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TalRussell 3 months, 1 week ago

Begin by doing away with popoulaces' charged with a crime needing to post a cash bond to be released before trial --- Yes?

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