Yet another attorney-at-law has blasted Government’s recent amendments to the Bail Act.
Lalu Hanuman, who is also the Convener of the Barbados Bar Association’s Human Rights’ Committee, has accused Government of “pre-judging” an accused’s guilt.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Dale Marshall announced that persons charged with 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.
The move was given a thumbs down by Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim, as well as attorneys Mohia Ma’at and Verla Depeiza, the leader of the Democratic Labour Party, who all described it as a “knee jerk” reaction to the rising level of violence in Barbados.
Hanuman said while he understood the need for something to be done to address the problem, he described the amendment as “unconstitutional”.
“While no rational person wants murderers or gun-toting criminals walking the streets of Barbados, we as a society must be exceedingly wary of the recently-passed Bail (Amendment) Bill which restricts persons charged with murder and serious gun crimes from accessing bail before 24 months have elapsed. Though this legislation may well appeal to the public gallery, it is a knee-jerk, ill thought out reaction to the valid concerns held by the public.
“This legislation is unconstitutional as it breaches Article 13 (3) of the Barbadian Constitution which holds that bail is available for all offences if the matter is not determined within a reasonable time. Spending 24 months on remand cannot be said to be a reasonable time period for someone who is deemed to be innocent by law,” Hanuman said.
The veteran lawyer called for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to be more proactive, which he said would result in speedier trials and verdicts being handed down.
He said instead of denying accused persons bail, alternatives such as electronic monitoring could prove helpful.
“Ensuring that the DPP gets their act together and not have accused persons waiting for six and a half years for disclosure – as is the case in a matter that I am involved in – would result in speedy hearings. That is where the focus needs to be, not on depriving accused persons of their fundamental human rights,” Hanuman said.
“Ankle electronic monitoring [known as “tagging”] as used in England to monitor curfews and other bail conditions imposed by a court, can be a solution to monitoring those on bail.”