THE PASSAGE of the contentious Bail Bill now hands the law enforcement authorities a useful tool. That tool must be a part of an overall strategy to protect the public in both the short term and the long term. Without proper enforcement of the law, and without care being taken to secure more long-lasting convictions as opposed to the remand of prisoners suspected of wrongdoing, the effort of Parliament will come to naught. The law must be properly enforced. This means readying the judiciary, prosecutors, and the police, the latter of whom must improve detection rates in order to interdict and keep persons suspected of being repeat offenders off the streets.
Wednesday’s extraordinary sitting of Parliament saw the Government and Opposition cooperate to secure the necessary majority required to pass this law which fringes on rights but does so in a manner that is justifiable and proportionate in the context of the proliferation of firearms offences.
Notwithstanding the unanimous passage of the legislation, the sitting had ugly and weak moments when MPs tried to politicise the special sitting and the legislation before the House. Still, it took some degree of maturity to achieve the legislation’s passage, even if the stated rationale was, on the part of some MPs, to ensure they could not be blamed for not supporting an anti-crime measure.
Sadly, lives are being lost every day because of the operation of gangs and the possession of high-powered firearms. The focus must be on this situation, not on shallow partisanship. There are many more measures and non-legislative initiatives that all sides of the divide can and should focus on, particularly those which relate to the social causes of crime.
We demand results. And we continue to demand that the police be given all the tools they need to face up to the problem. Such a process of resource allocation should also include constant reviews of resources already allocated and an assessment of whether these resources are helping in delivery.
The State must also attend to prosecutorial shortages at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as concerns about judicial infrastructure and penal facilities throughout the nation.
It may well be that billions have been spent on the matter of national security with little ascertainment of the effectiveness of expenditure. But the response to such a state of affairs is to make the process of resource allocation more efficient, more transparent and more open to the needs of the relevant stakeholders. If crime cannot be brought under control, all of our revenue-generating potential as a nation will continue to be undermined.
How will the State deal with the clear problem of gang culture? How will it effect the removal of guns from our society? How will it bolster the low detection rate? The low conviction rate? One bill has been passed, but there is still more work to be done.