Review the bail application process!
That is the view of some lawyers who are claiming that High Court judges are granting bail to accused persons who are undeserving.
Their comments have come following a recent murder, which was allegedly committed by a man who was already on bail from the High Court.
However, president of the Barbados Bar Association Liesel Weekes refuted those claims, saying that bail was a right to all accused persons.
One lawyer who asked to remain anonymous told Barbados TODAY that some persons with a history of committing serious offences were still being granted bail. He explained that in some circumstances the lengthy conviction cards of some criminals were not even being presented to judges before bail is determined.
“The bail process needs to be tightened up. When an accused appears before a judge to make a bail application, a certain procedure needs to be followed,” the veteran lawyer insisted.
“However, in some of these instances they aren’t being followed. Sometimes, something as simple as a conviction card being presented to the judge is not being done, which would allow that judge to have a better understanding of that particular client.”
He said this led to circumstances where persons who had been convicted of serious offences were still being granted bail when they ought not to be.
Another attorney said judges needed to be sometimes more responsible in granting bail. He too agreed that the past record of any accused should be a critical consideration in whether that person was granted bail or kept on remand.
Queen’s Counsel Michael Lashley told Barbados TODAY it was important that each case was treated on its merit. He explained that while the Bail Act spoke to persons who re-offended or committed an offence while on bail, he said there was a “guarded presumption of innocence”.
Lashley said he believed judges and magistrates granted bail in some situations due to the lengthy wait in our judicial system.
“If the average time to have a case heard is three to four years you can’t deny a person their freedom for that length of time,” he said.
His fellow Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim also agreed and said there were several situations which led to persons being granted bail on serious offences.
“Judges in Barbados are forced to grant bail in circumstances when people are not coming to trial. If you charge me with a serious offence in 2014 and in 2019 you are not ready to try me, I have to consider granting you bail. Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.
But Weekes told Barbados TODAY that any accused was presumed innocent until proven guilty.
She said while in Barbados there was a general feeling that once someone was charged with an offence he or she was guilty, that was not the manner in which judges or magistrates determined if a person was a fit candidate for bail.
“Bail is a right, so you start from the position that everyone is entitled to bail and then we look at the conditions in the Act to see if those conditions are met and once the court is satisfied . . . they are entitled to grant bail,” Weekes said.
“If the prosecution is not in a position to put a proper objection to bail before the court, then the court is entitled to grant bail, even for serious offences.”