When will the Gun Court be ready?
Late in January of this year, the government made a big announcement that in conjunction with the judiciary it had set up a gun court in a move to ensure that those found in possession of illegal firearms are quickly prosecuted.
Attorney General John Delaney, Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade and senior officers from the Royal Bahamas Police Force all attended the news conference, which was held after a meeting with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on gun crime.
According to police data, guns were used in 69 out of the 94 homicides recorded in 2010. Out of 17 homicides recorded so far for the year, 14 involved guns. Also last year, 351 illegal firearms and 6,224 rounds of ammunition were seized an increase over the year before.
That announcement was made on Friday, January 28. Turnquest said that they expected suspects to appear before the court on that following Monday.
Just over four weeks later,The Nassau Guardianreported that while a magistrate had been designated for the speciality court, it still did not have a prosecutor.
And the magistrate who had been hearing the new gun cases has yet to complete any of those new gun cases.
In this space, following the announcement of the gun court, we commended the government for the court’s establishment as part of an overall strategy of driving down the high crime rate in the country.
Today we must ask if the news conference was simply a public relations exercise designed to help quiet the public’s outcry against the country’s troubling crime trends.
We saw a record-breaking murder count last year, and so far we are on pace to repeat that trend.
More than one month after the announcement, the new court is still not functioning in the way that it should.
The government is obviously making an effort to attack the problem of crime and the fear that it has created in our society; however, big news conferences attended by big names in the judiciary and the government need to be followed through with action and results.
There are a lot of illegal guns in this country.
And we still think that a gun court, if run properly and given the necessary resources, could help ensure that suspects are quickly prosecuted. This is an important part of any crime fighting strategy.
Results are not expected overnight, especially in a system that is beset with a significant case backlog. However, announcing the establishment of a court and that suspects would start appearing in a matter of days gives the distinct impression that the facility is ready to function.
This was obviously not the case.
The people deserve more than just lip service.