Crime, accountability and storms

Bahamians continue to be faced with a surge in violent crime against persons and inexplicable discontinuance of prosecution of criminal cases.

The assistant commissioner of police, who heads the Domestic Violence Unit, has provided “startling” numbers of sexual assault crimes including rape, sexual abuse of minors and incest occurring between January and August this year.

Then we learn in the media that an individual before the court relating to the sexual assault of a two-year-old, had the charges against him dropped. The circumstances that resulted in this change of events are unknown to the public.

Between August 13 and 14, police reported a string of murders and assaults inflicting grievous harm.

Shockingly, a minor, just 16 years of age, was charged before the courts with multiple murders and attempted murders. And a 20-year-old and a 24-year-old were brought before the courts charged with two unrelated killings.

A murder reported in Abaco over the weekend took the murder count to 92 for the year, making Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander’s hope to keep the number of murders for the year under 100 appear like a pipe dream.

Other serious crimes are also receiving strange and unusual treatment in the courts.

A report in this paper late last month recounted that charges of corruption against a senior tax officer were dropped notwithstanding that Magistrate Samuel McKinney, having heard the matter, determined that the defendant had a case to answer.

The defendant indicated his preparedness to present a defense and said that he would call Simon Wilson, the financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance, as a witness presumably to bolster his defense against charges.

Perhaps it was a matter of poor scheduling, but when the date set for the continuation of the case arrived, Magistrate McKinney was not available.

Typically in such instances, the matter is adjourned to a date convenient to the magistrate. In this instance, however, in a case alleging extortion of a businessman by a senior tax officer in which the financial secretary was likely to be called as a witness, another magistrate assigned to adjourn cases for the absent McKinney, instead dismissed the matter on an application by the prosecution.

All public officers are accountable for their actions. This includes the commissioner of police and the attorney general. The public expects and we demand a public explanation for inexplicable dismissal of charges in serious matters before the courts.

The threat of storms

There has been a surprisingly slow start of tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic Basin this year. But weather experts caution that a slow start means nothing about how the peak months of September and October will be.

Hurricane Dorian, the fourth named storm of the 2019 summer storm season, slammed into Abaco and Grand Bahama during the first four days of September.

Survivors of that hurricane remain traumatized today, many further devastated by the slow rate of recovery and reconstruction.

Stories retold by many survivors last week as we marked the third anniversary of the hurricane, should suffice to ensure that Bahamians take all future impending storms seriously.

As if an early warning, an unusually wet spring this year inundated areas in New Providence not previously considered flood prone.

It remains critically important that no one amongst us lose sight of the importance of becoming and remaining in a state of storm preparedness, not least so the government which in 12 months in office has been active in identifying faults in its predecessor’s record in storm preparedness, response and recovery but done little on the ground to change the status quo.

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