Community activist and Democratic Labour Party candidate for St Michael South East in the last general election, Rodney Grant, has declared as unconstitutional the new Bail Act.
He said putting an accused person on remand for as much as two years while they await trial is still an additional cost to the public purse, as he slammed amendments to the Bail Act under which murder accused are not to be considered for bail until after 24 months.
Grant told Barbados TODAY: “I think it is far more important to bring cases [to trial] faster than putting a man on bail for two years. I am not a lawyer, but I believe it is unconstitutional to hold a man for two years and he is not getting a chance to come to trial to hear his case before he could [apply] for bail. When you hold a man for two years you have to feed him and it is a drain on the public purse.”
He described the presumption of innocence until proven guilty as a basic human right.
He said: “The thing about law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. No matter how you feel, no matter what we think about a person, no matter what we think about the crime that was committed it is a basic thing in criminal law that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Until a person goes to court and has a chance to defend themselves against what is being projected against him you have to say he is innocent you cannot say that he is guilty before the case [is heard].”
The founding director of the Pinelands Creative Workshop said the administrative side of the judiciary needs a complete overhaul, declaring that the appointment of new judges alone would not fix systemic issues in the administration of criminal justice.
Grant said: The question is if you have more judges you have to hope that the system improves but you have to wait and see. Is it a problem with judges or is it a problem with how the administrative process of the court also works? I think it may be more than getting more judges. I think it is about the administration of the judicial system, as well as half the time they cannot find files. [So,] if you have more judges and you cannot find the files you still cannot try the case. It is not just about more judges, it is about having the administration of justice work as well.”
Grant said he did share the concern raised by Attorney General Dale Marshall with how murder accused are granted bail, but he believes the bigger concern is the way in which cases are expedited in the law courts.