Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley believes it should be mandatory for accused murderers who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to be afforded one by the State.
“Moving forward in terms of reforming of the criminal justice system, [it] has to be the way to go,” said Lashley, who acknowledged that such support might not be immediately forthcoming, given Govt’s current financial constraints.
Speaking during today’s debate in the House of Assembly on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue.
Lashley, who is a criminal attorney, also zeroed in on another controversial aspect of the State’s reform agenda – the early release of convicted killers.
Last Saturday, the Judicial Committee of the local Privy Council, which is presided over by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, ordered the early release of infamous prisoner Peter Bradshaw after he spent over 30 years in jail for murder, including several years on death row.
Three days later, another murder convict Oliver Archer, was also granted freedom after serving 11 years behind bars.
And while Lashley noted that the State was under no obligation to inform the relatives of victims of any killer’s release, he was of the view that those families ought to be notified beforehand.
“We have seen the release recently of persons who were on death row back into the society, and of course I recognize that the victims of the families were questioning the fact that they were not notified upon the release.
“We know that there is no obligation on the State to notify the families of the victims, but certainly we hope sometime in the future that we put a protocol to ensure that the victims’ families are properly notified of the release,” said Lashley.
His comment is reflective of the current divided public sentiment. While some Barbadians have welcomed the attempt to give reformed and apologetic prisoners a second chance others have strongly condemned their release saying it is a slap in the face to the victims’ families. (RB)