Speaker of the House of Assembly, Arthur Holder says that persons charged under the recently amended Bail Act can be released from custody in under 24 months once their case falls within three specific circumstances.
Describing as deceptive recent statements by attorney-at-law Alyvan Babb which suggests that all persons charged under the amended Act will be remanded for 24 months before becoming eligible for bail, the Speaker said Babb and anyone else making this claim should first “read the Act” before making “mouthings” in the public in political fora.
Holder pointed out that the Act, which was unanimously passed through both Chambers of Parliament in the first week of this month gives a High Court the option of granting bail to a person charged for murder, treason, or a firearms offence if he or she was at the time conducting official duties; if the judge has reason to believe the accused did not commit the offence; and if the individual might have acted in self-defence.
The Speaker, a practising criminal attorney, contacted Barbados TODAY to make the clarification over the interpretation of The Bail Amendment Bill 2019 following a Friday report that Babb had described the Bill as flawed, unconstitutional and not thoroughly thought through because accused persons get a mandatory two-year sentence though a trial may prove the individual innocent.
The amendment states in part, “In the case of persons charged with serious offences Subject to subsection (2), a person charged with murder; treason; high treason; or an offence under the Firearms Act, Cap. 179, which is punishable with imprisonment for 10 years or more shall not be granted bail unless a period of 24 months has expired after that person was charged.”
Delivering remarks at the the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) Astor B. Watts Lunchtime Lecture Series, at DLP’s George St Headquarters Friday Babb said, “that’s a two-year sentence based on what, an allegation? In trials and in evidence, there is data from judges which says that a witness may be honest but mistaken.”
But Arthur who presided over the passage of the amendment in the House on April 2, said Babb’s statement does not give a correct interpretation of the Act.
“That section that he quotes is section 5 A subsection (1). But that section is subsection to subsection (2) which makes the three exceptions.
“So that Section 5, needs to be read in its entirety rather than snippets being taken from it, which are misleading, which gives a false impression that a person has to wait 24 months before they can get bail,” the Speaker pointed out.
Holder further noted, “Subsection (2) says, for example notwithstanding subsection (1) bail may be granted by the [High] Court (a) where any person is charged with murder in circumstances connected with the discharge of that person’s official duties. So that for example a policeman or a [Barbados] Defence Force person, a security guard that is an exception.”
According to him, subsection (2) (b) also provides the option of bail “where the court is of the view that the strength of the evidence suggests that the accused did not commit the offence with which he is charged”.
Pointing out that the evidence against an accused is made available to that person’s lawyer in pre-trial disclosure and if the allegations are not strong, he said applicants for bail will be making their case “on the grounds that there is no evidence to suggest that the man committed the offence”.
He referred to subsection (2) (c) which states bail is optional if “the court is satisfied on the evidence presented that the accused would be able to rely on the defence of self- defence”.
“This is another circumstance for bail” he said.
Holder, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) representative for St Michael Central said “Attorneys-at-law ought to know better and not seek for political gains to give a false impression.
“If they’re aspiring for political office come to the public and explain in its entirety so the public could be well apprised of what is said in the Act and do not give false impressions.”