The cries for answers from the grieving family of Marcelle Smith reverberate as a giant void remains six days after police made the grim discovery of a decomposing body at Halton, St Philip, widely believed to be that of the missing 75-year-old mother.
While there appears to be admission on the part of some, that we are still without official confirmation of the identity of the innocent life lost offers no comfort to Mrs Smith’s loved ones, or to the public who have also been disquieted by her mysterious disappearance.
“Our mother did not deserve this,” said Mrs Smith’s daughter Tanya, who revealed to Barbados TODAY yesterday that her family was still in shock.
Police have announced that an autopsy is to be conducted to determine the identity of the body and the cause of death.
With the utmost respect for their expertise we urge that the process be completed sooner rather than later, if only to pave the way for closure of this sordid episode for Mrs Smith’s relatives and the society.
That there would be one among us to violate the high regard reserved for our elderly folk who deserve nothing less than our respect and gratitude remains baffling, is blameworthy and must not go unpunished.
A society that fails to protect and rightfully honour its seniors is on a slippery slope; and we aver that our Barbados must never be allowed to slide to such a low level.
It has not escaped our attention that a suspect has been detained, nor has the report that the alleged perpetrator is on bail, though previously charged with murder, missed us.
The latter puts our justice system under sharp scrutiny. It as well presents a sore point for many –– this granting of bail to murder accused.
While we acknowledge that the Bail Act provides for an accused to be granted bail at the judge’s discretion, there can be no mistaking that the facilitation of such in the context of murder remains questionable for a large section of the public and for several valid reasons.
It may be noteworthy to consider that in a small country like Barbados, the perception that one can commit a heinous crime and be given the opportunity to secure bail sends the wrong message to those bent on a criminal path.
While we do not advocate trampling on one’s constitutional rights and believe an accused remains innocent until proven guilty, we urge that the impact on society, as it relates to the granting of bail, be considered, lest the nonchalance towards and lack of public confidence in the justice system intensifies.
The fact remains that murder is abhorred by all right-thinking members of society, who believe perpetrators must fully face the consequences of their actions and that bail therefore should not be a consideration.
If the public has no faith in the law courts to deliver justice fair and square, then members are unlikely to lend any support to the national crime fight or act as witnesses, particularly if the murder accused they have identified can go about their ways freely.
Equally, the implications for the victims’ families and the society cannot be taken for granted. It can hardly be comforting and heartening to the family of a victim witnessing an accused perpetrator being allowed to roam freely –– even if only for a while on bail –– as they mourn.
This very debate opens up another notably discomfiting issue: that of long delays in the court system. Our track record has been poor. And only this month, our highest court –– the Caribbean Court of Justice –– again reminded us in no uncertain terms that justice delayed is justice denied.
If a murder accused should not get bail, then the justice system must ensure speedy trials in the interest of the society it is committed to preserve and protect.
May justice be swift and sure for the anguished Smith family.