PM: Judiciary must save society from repeat offenders

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during Thursday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. - ROGER JACOB
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during Thursday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. - ROGER JACOB

GOVERNMENT'S LOSS of a key tool in the fight against crime to keep the most violent and repeat offenders behind bars without bail for at least four months in the first instance, has now shifted the onus on the Judiciary to protect society in a country burdened by crime.

The Prime Minister, speaking at a post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's on Thursday, said just 116 people accused of serious crimes were to be subject to the bail restrictions, and 75 of them had five or more pending cases.

On Wednesday, the government's attempt to give life to the bail legislation beyond August 4 for people charged under anti-gang laws, for firearm offences, illegal drugs, sexual offences, anti-terrorism offences and human trafficking, failed to get the required support in the Senate. Five Independent senators voted against any extension of the law which has been in place for the past five years.

Dr Rowley, the chair of the National Security Council, said while the 116 offenders do not sound like a lot, the information was they were repeat offenders linked to numerous crimes.

He said the Bail Act came into force in 1994 because of the crime situation, and had been amended on 12 occasions to meet the changing landscape of crime between 2005-2015.

Asked whether it would be more economical to use electronic-monitoring devices to tag violent offenders on bail, Rowley said that argument was "specious" as the bracelets are in use. He said while there may not be enough, it was a matter for the Judiciary to use.

He said when repeat offenders are arrested and they get bail, they have to find money to pay their lawyers. He asked rhetorically, "Where do you think it is coming from?"

The PM said all the bail law intended was to restrict people who re-offend "while the court system looks at the evidence and hopefully will dispense justice on time.

"We are in fact a very violent society, and some people have seen that now as something they could use to prosper by. That is the unpleasant reality of it. And how does one treat with that? As human beings we need to restrain those who are so inclined. And how do you do that? Through laws because we are a law-abiding society. We aim to be."

Questioned on the low detection rate, low conviction rate, and inordinate delays for people accused of crime to get a trial, Rowley said he agreed the criminal justice system had many moving parts and the restriction of bail for repeat offenders for 120 days was not one of them.

"What you raised there is the whole question of the speed at which justice is dispensed overall, and I agree with everything you have said there about how slow it is, about how low the detection level is, but that is just one part of the many moving parts."

He reiterated a statement he made a few weeks ago that "the rate at which justice is dispensed in this country, for whatever reason, is unacceptably slow. As Prime Minister of this Cabinet I have gone over and above the consideration about what can the government do to facilitate an acceleration in the justice system, and I am not seeing it.

"In other words were are making the investment and we not seeing it.

“I don't know what is the reason, but I'm sure if we are able to improve the detection and also dispense justice in a swifter fashion, that that will have some effect on the situation but to have to say that I am not happy. I don't think there is anybody in the country who could say that they are happy with the way it has been."

He said it was "just unacceptable" for someone to be on remand for 15 years without a trial.

"What I would ask is, how did this happen? I don't know the details. I've read about it, I've heard about it, the question is why is this happening."

To help speed up access to justice, he said, the government has changed the law for judge-alone trial, plans to proclaim the amendments to the Preliminary Enquiries Act to send certain complex fraud matters directly to the High Court, allowed people to access cash bail, decriminalised the use or recreation marijuana under 30 grammes, to reduce the pressure in Remand.


"PM: Judiciary must save society from repeat offenders"

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