NASSAU – Forty-nine people charged with murder were released on bail over the past 13 months, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage revealed in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Nottage also revealed that 305 accused murderers were released on bail in the preceding five years. He said the statistics, which were derived from Her Majesty’s Prisons’ database, underscore the challenge of getting cases to court within a reasonable period of time.
Nottage also said 163 people charged with armed robbery and another 28 people charged with rape were released on bail between May 2012 and June 16, 2013.
He said 577 people charged with armed robbery and 166 people charged with rape were released on bail between May 2007 and May 2012.
It is unclear whether all of those people are still on bail or how many of those cases have already gone to trial.
Nottage said the figures point to the inability to effectively manage cases.
“In other words, we are not being able to get our cases through the court system,” he said while contributing to debate on the 2013/2014 budget.
He said criminal defence attorneys have also added to the delays.
“There are some lawyers who have two and three matters in the Supreme Court at the same time and another matter in the Court of Appeal,” he said. “So when their case comes up, they can’t appear in three places at once.
“And some of them play the legal system; that’s what lawyers do.”
Law enforcement officials have long lamented that some people who are released on bail reoffend.
“We have some killers in this town and we need to find ways to get them to trial quickly and if they’re guilty, to be dealt with,” Nottage said.
Pointing to the bottleneck in the criminal court system, Nottage said cases are now being booked for trial in 2015.
“So these persons would not be able to be tried in what court says is a reasonable period of time,” he said.
Last week, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez told the House of Assembly that only 89 criminal cases were tried in the past 12 months.
Gomez said the figure is “simply unacceptable” for a system with five criminal courts. (Nassau Guardian)