The Prerogative of Mercy committee will meet in the beginning of February to hear applications for the expungement of criminal records, according to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee Chairman Paul Farquharson.
The function of the Rehabilitation of Offenders committee is to review applications and make recommendations for expungement to the minister of national security.
In an earlier interview, Farquharson said the majority of applications received since the committee began work last September were for “minor matters connected with marijuana”.
Noting the national conversation sparked surrounding marijuana in anticipation of the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana’s final report, Farquharson said the committee hopes to bring those individuals “out of this valley of despair, into the mountaintop of hope”.
“The next Prerogative of Mercy’s meeting will be held on the fourth of next month,” Farquharson told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
He added, “The foundation is being laid; moving from a very old system of expungement to one that is modernized and will lay the foundation for a modern system well into the future…
“We are a very unforgiving society, because once you are branded, you are doomed. We don’t want that to happen.
“These are persons who have been disadvantaged for a long time, served their time and they feel that they have a right and be rewarded back to normalcy by the state, under the law. We have to operate within the guidelines of the law.
“…The records are like an albatross around their necks. We have to bring them out of this valley of despair into a place or the mountaintop of hope.
“The state has an obligation to make sure that, under the law, we give them a second chance.”
He said that the committee is pushing for a total turnaround time for a record to be expunged to be in a six-month period from the time the application is made to the end when the record is expunged.
Farquharson also announced that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee intends to hold a public meeting on February 19 at 7 p.m. at the Edmund Moxey Centre to try to encourage more people to submit applications for expungement of their records.
Staff will be on hand to assist individuals with making their applications, he said.
“I want to appeal to the young people who have been disadvantaged over the years, who for one reason cannot go to college, cannot find a job, their employment has been affected and, in some instances, cannot get a bank loan because they have a criminal record for a minor offense,” Farquharson said.
“That includes very minor matters as it relates to marijuana – you know that is topical at the moment. But this committee is concerned about all criminal offenses, let me make that straight.”
The committee will hear applications to all offenses excluding manslaughter, murder, treason, armed robbery, rape and kidnapping.
It can expunge records for offenders convicted of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply if the offender was found with a quantity of less than 10 pounds of Indian hemp, two pounds of cocaine or 20 grams of opium morphine and its salts including heroin.
Calling it “unfair” for a young person to be remanded for a “minor offense”, Farquharson also suggested yesterday that magistrates be permitted to grant bail to those individuals on the spot.
“It’s unfair for a person who was charged with a minor offense to be remanded to prison in this 21st Century when they could be given bail on the spot or, if they plead guilty, give them community service, for that matter,” Farquharson said.
“That is my personal position because, as it is, the criminal justice system is overburdened.
“And therefore, whatever we can do, I think punishment must be served, but must be served with good sense. And therefore we hope that through the establishment of this committee, we can help society as a whole.”