Critics who claim the granting of bail in courts across The Bahamas has contributed to the high levels of crime in recent years are simplifying the issue, Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC, said.
He broke his silence on the matter after several high-ranking officials in law enforcement have linked bail with the high crime rate.
Moree asserted the blame should not be put on the courts, which he maintained are constrained by legal principals.
“I think it’s over-simplistic to simply say that the crime is so high because people are on bail committing crimes and they should all be locked up,” he said outside Government House.
“I mean it’s a little bit more complicated than that.”
He added, “First of all, everybody knows that there is a presumption of innocence, which the courts have to operate with. And when somebody is arrested and charged and they apply for bail, the courts have to be satisfied, based upon all of the authorities that it is a suitable case either to grant bail or not to grant bail.”
The issue of bail has long been a concern for those in law enforcement with top Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) officers expressing concerns about the release of accused criminals.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames told the press that bail for prolific offenders remains a challenge in the fight against crime. Dames also insisted that the justice system is in dire need of reform.
Dames said the bail issue was a vexing one and oftentimes offenders on bail commit more serious crimes or end up dead.
Back in 2015, then Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell told the press that the granting of bail to people charged with serious crimes is indirectly contributing to the country’s crime rate.
Bell noted that many of the men who are released on bail have either become victims of crime or perpetrators of crime.
But Moree insisted the courts are only following the law.
“In terms of whether bail should be granted or not, I would like the public to understand that we are constrained by legal principles, and we don’t want to live in a country where the minute somebody is arrested, then that means that the presumption is that they should not get bail,” he said.
“And then they’re going to be sitting in jail until their trial, particularly bearing in mind that the period between being charged and your trial coming on, assuming you plead not guilty, is quite long.”
Moree, however, said he does understand the importance of protecting the public interest, and said the remand period needs to be fixed.
“On the other hand, there is a legitimate point that the judiciary has to be aware of the public interest in this matter, and you have to weight it up in terms of the constitutional principles and our duty to protect the public,” he said.
He added, “We’re trying to reduce the remand period by bringing on trials a little more quickly than we have in the past.”