Changes to the law governing bail are aimed at restoring confidence in the judicial system, lawyer and Minister of Parliament Wilfred Abrahams said in the House today.
Things had reached the point where the average Barbadian, especially the criminal element, no longer respected the law courts, Abrahams said during debate on amendments to the Bail Act.
“The public is lambasting the justice system. They shifted off the police, they giving them a little break now but they are lambasting the judges. It cannot be that someone accused of not one murder but two can be granted bail.
“If that person gets out what does the public then think of the judicial system especially when the person commits another offence. The judicial system appears to be a farce and powerless. Our justice system should never be perceived as powerless.”
“There is no respect for the police and there is no respect for the court system. You cannot respect a system that allows them to perpetuate this misguided belief that the judicial system and the police force is a mere convenience . . . A blip after which they will regain their freedom.”
Throwing his “full support” behind the Bill, the lawyer said the backlog and archaic laws in the judicial system only serve to undermine the good work the police officers are doing.
“Based on what is happening now they [changes] are absolutely necessary. The police are doing what they can. It must be demoralising to the police force when they swiftly apprehend a suspect in a serious case and the officers slave and do their investigation and put a case together . . . that because of problems with the judicial system, over which they have no control, that people whose propensity is to violence are back out on the streets with not a care in the world.”
The Christ Church East MP pointed out that judges, too, may feel hemmed in given the constraints of the previous law.
He told fellow lawmakers: “The judges may feel themselves fettered and having to protect the rights of the individual
. . . where the constitution speaks to the right to a trial in a fair time. To remove all doubt to preserve the integrity of the justice system and to protect Barbados and Barbadians, where your crime is so horrific, you are not eligible for bail within the first 24 months.
“The people of Barbados are fed up. The police is fed up. The Government is fed up and we are prepared to do what it takes to get this situation under control.”
The MP cited a recent incident where a vehicle backfired, startling onlookers within ear shot of the incident who believed it to be gunfire.
He said: “The public of Barbados is so frightened that they are paralysed by fear people are confused they don’t even know what to do when confronted with a situation . . . . Once upon a time you hear a bang you thought it was a car back firing or a motorcycle. Everybody felt it was a gun shot. It is well past time for us to do what needs to be done to take our country back.”
Abrahams also commended the Attorney General and the Prime Minister for allowing all parliamentarians in both the upper and lower house, inclusive of opposition and independent senators, to be a part of the bill’s changes. A special meeting was convened last Thursday to deal specifically with the Bail Act.