One of the island’s top criminal lawyers has estimated that there may be over 30 alleged murderers out on bail in Barbados.
There has been public outcry over Tuesday’s release on $250,000 bail of alleged killer Sean Watson, who had spent the last four years on remand at HMP Dodds, charged with the murder of his estranged wife Nicole Harrison-Watson on April 29, 2012.
However, Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim today insisted that despite the seriousness of the offence, all persons are entitled to bail under the Bail Act.
“First of all, the question is, are people allowed to get bail for murder in Barbados? And the answer to the question is yes, pursuant to the Bail Act.
“Is Sean Watson the first person to get bail for murder in Barbados? The answer is no. He is one of probably 30 people or more who are on bail for murder in Barbados, so it is not as big a deal as people are making it seem. I don’t mean that to take away from the seriousness of the offence of murder, but obviously if other people are getting bail for this offence, you have to ask what is special about Sean Watson that he got bail, and the answer is nothing,” Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY in an interview at the Supreme Court.
The senior attorney explained that the amount of time spent on remand awaiting trial was one of the main factors which resulted in bail being granted to people charged with murder.
He argued that it was inhumane for persons to be kept on remand for years on end while awaiting trial.
“We are in Barbados in a state where we are unable to give people a trial in a reasonable time in a lot of cases. One of the greatest breaches of a person’s human rights when they are innocent until proven guilty, is to have them imprisoned until they are tried.
“If you have to keep a person on remand before their trial it should be for a short time. When you start to have people in prison for two years, three years, four years, five years before they are tried, it is not fair and it is quite possible that a judge would grant bail in those circumstances,” he insisted.
However, Pilgrim said it would be unfair to place the blame for the delay in cases solely at the feet of the police or the judicial system.
He contended that while there had been a rise in crime in recent years, there had not been a corresponding increase in the number law enforcement officials.
“We have had over the past few decades a significant increase in crime, but we have not increased the number of magistrates, the number of judges and we have not significantly increased the number of police officers,” he said.
“So obviously if your crime increased 20-fold and you have the same number of police now as you did 15 years ago and the same judges and the same police doing the same cases . . . obviously the delays are going to be significant.
“The question is what are we doing as a people, or as a Government to improve the justice system to make sure it flows quickly and realizing that when the justice system doesn’t work it affects all of us,” Pilgrim noted. (RB)