Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee Chairman Paul Farquharson said yesterday that the committee is working “expeditiously” to review applications of first time, young offenders who are seeking to clear their criminal records.
Farquharson said the group is reviewing applications as well as a backlog of applications that was given to them by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.
The committee’s function is to review applications of first time and young offenders, who are defined as individuals under the age of 21 at the date of conviction.
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.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he supports “expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana”.
When contacted yesterday, Farquharson said, “I think the prime minister is right, in my humble opinion, that persons who have been incarcerated or arrested and have a record for minor amounts of marijuana, those records should be expunged.
“I am in total agreement of that.”
He added, “We hope to deal with [the applications] expeditiously, for some of these matters have been around for 30, 40 years.”
Farquharson, a former commissioner of police, said while the committee has received applications across the board for all types of offenses, the majority of applications have been for “minor matters connected with marijuana”.
“Those applications will be dealt with expeditiously by the committee,” he said.
“There are three reports that we have to get before those matters are expunged.
“One from the prison; one from the police and one from social services.
“We will deal with them on receipt of those reports. We compile the applications and we send them out for reports and then we deal with them and make a recommendation to the minister.
“The minister can either approve them or reject them, under the law.”
The committee was approved by Cabinet this year and was set to commence work in September.
“Well, from where I sit, I think it was about three or four days after the committee [was established], I had a number of persons who personally called me,” Farquharson said.
“I don’t know how they got my number but they did, and most of those persons who called me were charged for [m]inor matters connected with marijuana.
“But remember now, this amendment act deals with all offenses – first time offenses and young people. That is what the law says and that is the guideline for the committee.”
When asked how many applications were in the backlog, Farquharson could not give an amount.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Amendment) Act, 2015 was gazetted on November 24, 2015. According to the legislation, after five years, first time offenders and young offenders are able to apply for the removal of their criminal records.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana is expected to submit its preliminary report to the government at the end of the month.
Co-Chair Quinn McCartney has suggested that the commission will likely follow the lead of other Caribbean countries on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana, noting that there won’t be “any great surprises”.