Bail with two sureties
“You are granted bail with two sureties.” These are the words that many Bahamians who are charged with committing serious offenses have become accustomed to hearing after being in jail for several years without a trial and without bail.
These are also words that the victims’ families dread hearing because it re-opens wounds and sometimes puts them in fear because of the potential for retaliation from these individuals who have been charged and released on bail.
Because of the high rate of crime among persons on bail, many in The Bahamas are calling on magistrates to deny bail to persons charged with serious offenses.
In fact, many Bahamians believe that magistrates are positively contributing to crime in the society. I was one of these believers as well.
Just recently, I read about several cases that the Attorney General’s Office lost. The most notable was the case involving a fire in which several persons lost their lives. The judge’s ruling pointed to a lack of evidence. Even in the recent case of Maxo Tido, the Privy Council stated that the identification parade should not have been allowed into evidence.
The crux of the problem in the administration of justice seems to be at the prosecutorial level.
The prosecutors receive the evidence from the police and then they present the evidence to the magistrate or judge. They have the responsibility to tell the police that a particular case has insufficient evidence and then recommend the release of persons who may spend several years of their lives in Fox Hill prison for no legal reason.
Additionally, if the prosecutors feel that a case has merit, then they have a responsibility to bring the case to trial within a reasonable time.
Magistrates have little choice in granting bail to accused individuals because keeping these persons in jail for unreasonable periods without a trial would be a violation of their civil rights. According to a recent press report, a father of a murder victim praised a magistrate for extending bail to a charged murderer. He appreciated the fact that the lack of speedy trials leaves magistrates with no choice but to extend bail.
It seems that the Attorney General’s Office needs immediate revamping and retooling. I know that they are between a rock and a hard place but let’s stop wasting the court’s time if the evidence is not available to prosecute individuals.
There have been several recent cases where confessions were not accepted by judges because of potential police brutality. How about scrutinizing more closely the police evidence received?
Innocent until proven guilty is the law in The Bahamas. No matter ‘who done it’, in a court of law, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is required as proof of guilt.
Having young men locked up in Fox Hill on lack of evidence only hurts the society when these men are released on bail. Many of them become hardened criminals and add even more criminal elements to their repertoire. Prosecutors need to present viable evidence and bring trials to courts in a much more efficient manner. Otherwise, we will continue to hear magistrates and judges utter the words, “You are granted bail with two sureties”.