Judiciary should embrace electronic monitoring
The government and police have had another trying year. When a country records three homicide records in four years, policymakers become stressed.
It has been acknowledged by police and the government that repeat offenders are committing many of the violent crimes in The Bahamas. Poor investigations by police, the inability of the Office of the Attorney General to successfully prosecute matters before the court and witness intimidation have made it difficult to keep the dangerous persons behind bars.
No one measure will fix the Bahamian crime problem. Our criminal justice system has become dysfunctional. Measures such as the new electronic monitoring system, however, will help.
The court will make the determination as to who will be monitored. Magistrates and judges must be willing to use this tool.
Those who come before the court already on multiple bails, and those with long criminal histories, should be monitored as a condition of bail. Though the presumption of innocence must be maintained, commonsense must also be used.
Many Bahamians have never been inside a court. Fewer have been charged with an indictable offense. Those regularly before the court facing murder, armed robbery and burglary charges are abnormal.
The state cannot hold individuals indefinitely without a fair trial. The court is mandated by the constitution to ensure that individuals are released from custody if they are not tried within a reasonable time.
Bahamians are angry as a result of the rise in the level of violent crime in the country over the past few years. Some want bail virtually abolished. It must be remembered, though, that the law exists to protect the citizenry from tyranny. Bail must be granted to those initially remanded when the state fails to do its job and prosecute quickly.
Along with being willing to make electronic monitoring a condition of release, the court should also be firm with those that violate the terms of their release. Remand at Her Majesty’s Prison pending trial should be the consequence.
The government should be commended for bring the electronic monitoring system into effect. It must do much more, however, to fix the broken prosecution system. If it has been acknowledged that the quality of police case preparation is inadequate, then what is being done to fix the problem?
Is additional training underway to ensure police files include evidence rather than mere confessions solicited from physical coercion?
Hopefully in 2011 we will hear much more from the government and lawmakers on additional reforms to the criminal justice system. As the government, police and the AG’s office try to fix the problem the opposition should feel free to offer suggestions. We are all in this together.