OPPOSITION Senator Anita Haynes accused the Government of trying to use scare tactics to push their Bail (Amendment) Bill 2019 through the Senate on Tuesday.
“You try to weaponise the fear of the nation,” she charged the Government.
“Yes, I am fearful. Things ought to be done to stymie the crime situation but we have to be extremely careful what we say and do.”
Haynes warned the bill could erode citizens’ rights.
She added, “After this legislation, if passed, would you genuinely feel safer? Could you go back yo your daily life before crime spiralled out of control. Are any of the bill’s provisions the solution to crime?”
She said the people want effective action, even as no Government MP has said the bill is a solution to crime.
“The solution before us will not make us feel safe. You corral people, lock them up for 120 days and then what?” She foresaw a Government touting a marginal drop in crime before the population but without any real impact on crime. Haynes hit the Government for a lack of action on the Police Manpower Audit which she said was now on a shelf collecting dust. She cited criminologist Rene Cummings who had called for community-driven action to prevent violence. Haynes lamented that rather than such a preventative approach, the bill takes effect only after a crime has been committed. She hit the Government for inaction on a promised Joint Border Patrol, Police Management Agency and Police Inspectorate, to curb crime.
Opposition Senator Khadijah Ameen earlier asked what was the Government doing to stop guns getting on to the street in the first place. She saw the no-bail provisions as potentially open to abuse by prosecutors who had to simply say that a firearm was used in a crime without having to proof it, at that early stage. Ameen warned remand yard was a breeding ground for criminals and a recruitment ground for gangs. “You are creating a bigger problem,” she warned, of sending suspects there.
The bill allows for individuals to be sent to jail without any basis, she said, denying she was soft on criminals. Ameen urged improvements to the judicial system included quicker trials than those which last six to 20 years.
She urged more use of dispute resolution, reimbursement of filing fees for attorneys doing pro bono work and a quicker payment for Legal Aid attorneys. “Identify blockages in the court system and systematically work on reducing it over administrations.”