Persons arraigned on serious charges like murder and firearms possession can expect a more difficult time getting bail, as more stringent measures have been put in place in the courts, according to Minister of State for Legal Affairs, Damien Gomez.
There are significant steps being made on the legislative level to tighten the noose on perpetrators and ensure that the criminal aspect does not spiral out of control, said Mr. Gomez as he addressed the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
The issue of bail has been a sore one, as there are cases where murder suspects are released on bail, only to go out and commit another crime. Murder suspects were getting bail because of the backlog in the judicial system. With an overload of serious crimes cases before the courts, judges were forced to give bail to some of the murder suspects who were not brought to trial in a reasonable time, which is normally 18 months.
But all too often, said Gomez, there is the perception that not enough or nothing is being done by authorities to tackle the crime situation effectively, when numerous measures are actually being implemented.
“If you have a situation where 40 per cent or less of your matters are successful, that means you lose 60 per cent of cases,” he said. “We met that when we got into office and we reached the point where our conviction rate was in the 60 percentile area – that’s a massive increase in performance. So it is not true to suggest that the office is not improving or responding to public criticism.”
Crime issues were addressed as the House convened on Wednesday and members debated the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Law Reform and Revision (Amendment) Bill 2015.
Gomez, who addressed the afternoon session, said the officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force are doing a commendable job given the circumstances and resources available to them. Those resources should be increased in the near future as an agreement was signed between the United States of America and The Bahamas this past Monday.
Those funds will go a long way in assisting measures already implemented by the Bahamas government, according to Sea breeze Member of Parliament Hope Strachan, who said more and more resources continue to be devoted to purchasing equipment for the national security forces. Human resources have been added to the judicial system, including more judges and clerical staff. New courts have been added, and there is better technology available to workers, Strachan said.
“Legislation continues to be presented to the house of Assembly and passed, tightening laws and closing the gaps in the judicial system,” she said.
Meanwhile, Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville talked about the issue of vigilante justice, which is tied in the issue of bail.