The release last week of accused killer Sean Watson on $250,000 bail was met with public outcry. Watson had been held on remand for four years awaiting trial for the murder of his estranged wife Nicole Harrison-Watson on April 29, 2012.
However, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite yesterday told the monthly meeting of the St James South constituency branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party that the Bail Act offered protection to accused persons.
Brathwaite did not suggest any plans to amend the Act, stating instead that the authorities needed to speed up the judicial processes so that accused persons would not have to sit in prison for extended periods before their cases were heard.
“The granting of bail to murder accused is always possible. There is nothing under the laws of Barbados that says that someone charged with murder cannot be granted bail. If that was so they would not be on bail.
“I am very sympathetic and empathetic towards families of victims who, when an accused person is released, are almost forced to relive those events. But at this point in time, bail is still allowed under our laws. What we need to do as a country and as a Government is to try to see how we can speed up the judicial processes. I have been working very hard to see how we can do that,” the Attorney General explained.
Brathwaite also said that under the Prison Act incarcerated persons were entitled to have their sentence reviewed by the Privy Council every four years.
“The Prison Act requires that every incarcerated person is entitled to a review of his/ her sentence every four years. So automatically the Privy Council should do an analysis every four years on whether or not a prisoner is fit for release. That is a fact and it is part of the laws of Barbados. There is nothing sinister or new about the fact that over the past year or two that convicted murderers have been released. It is something that has been going on for decades.
He said that “several individuals” had been released “without any big outcry” over the last few years, insisting that the Privy Council did not only consider the sentences of murder convicts.
The Attorney General acknowledged public concerns over the failure to advise relatives of the victims of the pending release of convicted murderers.
However, he said there was very good reason for this.
“I understand that, but at the risk of appearing insensitive, in most cases if a convicted murderer has been in prison for 25 to 30 years, the family of a victim would not have known anything about the prisoner for the last 30 years while he was in prison. Family members would not be aware of what programmes he would have gone through or whether or not he has changed. They would still be grieving and it is more than likely that they would be opposed to his release,” Brathwaite said. (NC)