Anyone facing a murder charge will only be considered for bail after they have spent 24 months in custody.
The Attorney General Dale Marshall made this announcement today in the House of Assembly while introducing changes to the Bail Act.
The amended act now reads as follows: “ . . . In any case where a person is charged with murder, treason and high treason or an offence under the Firearms Act which is punishable with imprisonment of ten years or more that such a person shall not be granted bail unless 24 months have passed.”
The AG explained that while the country continues to battle the surge in murders, now at 20, many felt the time should be increased to 36 months or in some cases no bail should be granted at all, the state still has to be mindful of the rights of the individual.
“We still have a duty to maintain an orderly society where rights of individuals are balanced. To set a bail restriction of 24 months we think that is reasonable in this case. We know that dealing with the Bail Act this way will not solve all of our problems but I am convinced it will go a long way in bringing some order to our streets.”
Marshall admitted that the main challenge with bail has to do with the length of time it takes for criminal cases to be completed. To this end, he said, Government is hopeful that the changes will reduce the time between a charge being brought and the commencement of a trial.
“Once these measures kick in there can be no good reason why a trial of any indictable matter should not be able to take place under 24 months. We are putting the judges in place. We are putting the court rooms in place. We have given the DPPs office additional prosecutors. We intend to bring it down from the five, six and seven-year period.”
The chief lawmaker said there are provisions for the court to grant bail before the 24-month period in “limited circumstances”.
“If the court has a view that the evidence before the court is weak, then the court has the opportunity to say the case is weak I am not going to keep you up Dodds for 24 months. The same applies to a case of self-defence.”
Another major change to the Act was the process of bail application. This change, the AG said, is designed to give the state “a significant voice when these bail applications are made”.
“A bail application can only be heard no fewer than 72 hours after it has been served to the DPP. The purpose of that is to give the Director of Public Prosecutions an opportunity to find out what the factual matrix are, what are the individual’s antecedents, where the police stands, if they are currently investigating another offence for this individual… This way the DPP can be the gatekeeper and say to the judge: ‘Judge, here are circumstances we do not think bail is appropriate and these are the circumstances.’”
The Attorney General said Government felt compelled to address the bail issue as it relates to repeat offenders.
“There are a number of young men and perhaps young women who because of the prevailing notion that: ‘Yuh gine get bail doan hurt yuh head’. There are number of them who are saying: ‘I gine do wuh I gotta do and in six months I gine be back out”. No Sir, yuh ain gine get bail in no three to four months anymore cause we are starting yuh off up there at 24 months . . . .”
While pointing out the heinous nature of some of the murders, Marshall lamented the fact that there was a section of society which glamorised crime.
“There is today a generation of individuals who see going up to prison as a means of rising in the estimation of his or her peers and in the estimation of the girls who they are trying to attract. Our young men are rendered more appealing to young girls if they went up to Dodds for three months. He gets bail and he comes back out as a celebrity.”