While Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley supports the amendments made to the Bail Act 2019, he said he was not completely convinced that those changes will put a dent in the current crime wave.
He was responding to the news from Attorney General Dale Marshall that the amendments would ensure persons who appeared before the court for murder or firearm offences punishable by at least ten years in prison would not be eligible for bail within two years after being charged, except in special circumstances.
However, Atherley said his research had shown that Trinidad and Tobago had implemented such a measure, but with little success.
“I was trying to do a little bit of research on this and I discovered that Trinidad had gone this route with respect to the matter of bail in response to their own violent crime situation. In 2015 there was an attempt to introduce a measure which denied access to bail in under about four months, we’re doing two years.
“What I recall reading by one or two people who did a review and an analysis of that, was that after a while that did not seem to put a dent in the crime wave. I raise that only to suggest that I am sure the Attorney General and the Government will look at this matter down the road and see if this measure now being discussed would have had after a while, the effect upon the crime situation in Barbados that is intended…but in the case of Trinidad it proved not to impact too positively on the crime situation,” Atherley said.
He suggested that Government review the initiative “after a while” to determine if it was indeed successful in attaining its goal.
“I hope that we will measure this and the effect over time and give necessary review to the measure as to whether or not it should be retained, whether or not the period of time should be extended or whether or not this should be retracted over a while,” Atherley said.
He said one concern was that such legislation removed the discretion of the court to grant bail.
“So here we are on one hand trying to enhance that discretionary power and on the other hand we are circumscribing it a bit. But sometimes necessary measures must be adopted in necessary times in the necessary context,” the Opposition Leader admitted.
Atherley warned that the new move by itself would not be enough to curb the crime situation, saying other things needed to be done.
“We can’t simply say no bail for two years and believe that that in itself and by itself will solve the problem. There are other things which must be done . . . so that we wrestle this problem to the ground,” he said.