Eight murder accused presently on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds have applied for bail this week alone, an indication that the wheels of justice are moving much too slowly, says Attorney General Dale Marshall.
“I have been informed by the Registrar of the Supreme Court that this week an additional eight murder accused who were on remand have applied for bail. Now this is something that concerns me greatly when you can have eight murder accused applying for bail. It means that the system has not been responding to the need to get their trials through as quickly as possible.
“So with the best will in the world and with all that the police do, if at the end of that process when people are presented for trial we are not in a position to deal with them effectively, then we have a problem,” Marshall argued.
Marshall said the slow pace to trial is emboldening offenders and contributing to this country’s rising murder statistics.
“When a person figures the courts are not getting around to trying them for murder or manslaughter or for shooting for eight or nine years, there is a cavalier approach that you have,” Marshall told Barbados TODAY in an interview at the opening ceremony for the 48th Caribbean Financial Action Task Force Plenary Conference at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Needhams Point, St Michael.
“I am especially concerned that when the police have done their good work, that at the end of the cycle, when it comes to the prosecutions, we have to be in a position to be with as swiftly,” he added.
There are 64 murder accused still awaiting trial.
Noting that the problem is by no means new, the Attorney General lamented, “It is perhaps not as well known a fact that we have in the region of 64 murder accused – and it increases every day – waiting for trial. There is no doubt that if these murder accused can be put to trial quickly, then the cavalier approach almost that they have towards life and limb and so on, is something that we can begin to wrestle…”
Pointing to Bermuda as an example, Marshall contended that his view was not “idle speculation” as jurisdictions that have sped up their murder trials have seen significant reductions in murder rates.
“I’ve had indepth discussions with individuals in other jurisdictions. Bermuda for example, they had a similar problem, but the moment they started moving to speedy murder trials, the murder rate began to drop because people began to recognize that there were swift responses and that the consequences would be sure to come quickly,” he contended.
Marshall revealed that in an effort to bring the problem under control, discussions have been held with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and commitments were given to place high priority on clearing the backlog of murder trials.
“For my part I’ve had discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions to see how we can effectively reduce, if not eliminate, the backlog so we can have trials moving quickly through. We had discussions and she committed to trying to move the murder trials through the system as soon as possible and in fact to give them priority,” he stressed, while maintaining that Government has pledged the resources to addressed the matter urgently.
Last week Acting Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce revealed that the murder rate as this month was four shy of the 28 murders recorded last year.