The granting of bail to murder accused in Barbados is causing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart grave concern.
“I have to confess to you that that one hit me for six,” Stuart told a group of media managers and senior journalists this afternoon at his official residence.
The Barbadian leader was a bit hesitant to delve into the topic saying, “I have to be very careful from where I sit as Prime Minister commenting on these things because I do not want it said that as Prime Minister I am trying to interfere with the administration of justice or the independence of the judiciary.”
However, he acknowledged that in recent times several people who were accused of murder had been released on bail.
Stuart did not refer to any specific cases. However, among the most high profile cases in which bail was recently granted were those of Sean Watson, who is charged with the 2012 murder of his estranged wife Nicole Harrison-Watson and Andre “Lord Evil” Jackman, who was officially released from lawful custody last month.
“[It is] something I never thought that I would have seen in Barbados, where I see murder accused getting bail,” the Prime Minister said, revealing that he had been having “quiet” conversations with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, “to see whether there is anything worth doing, [especially] in a small highly personalized society like Barbados.
“There is something blood cuddling about somebody slaughtering somebody in our community and just a few months later you go into the supermarket and run into him. So, that’s a challenge we have to face . . . and in many cases has led to despair,” he acknowledged.
The Prime Minister, who is an attorney by profession, suggested that one of the reasons for this recent occurrence was the amount of time it took to get people through the legal system.
He revealed that the backlog was so substantial that Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson has requested permission to appointment three temporary judges.
“He [the Chief Justice] sent a list of about 161 persons on remand at Dodds awaiting trial and he did not think that that backlog could be handled by the present complement of judges.
“He [the Chief Justice] was careful to remind me that he can only account for the ones who are at Dodds [but] there are many other people on bail awaiting trial as well and that this is an issue that we have to deal with,” Stuart explained.
However, the Prime Minister said the situation was such that Government may now need to make some amendments to the legislation to institute a regime of plea bargaining in order to clear the backlog.
“One of the things that holds this society together is the belief that people, if wronged, whether civilly or criminally that they can get redress somewhere and the day that faith is lost in that whole system we are into trouble and we can’t afford that,” the Prime Minister stressed.