Stop the ‘Bank Lane shuffle’

Dear Editor,

Under both the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the common law, a person who is accused of a criminal offense is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until that person is lawfully convicted of a crime.

Every civilized society recognizes this by sparing an individual who is merely accused of a crime from any punishment or embarrassment as far as is practically possible.

In that context, it is inexcusable for police to parade accused individuals before the cameras in a well-rehearsed shaming ritual known as the “Bank Lane shuffle”.

It is clear from the coordination with the media and the handcuffing of individuals, even where it is demonstrably unnecessary (like an ex-Cabinet minister on crutches or a professional woman in her 80s) that the purpose of the exercise is shame and humiliation, rather than public safety or justice.

From a glance at the South Street Court Complex it is clear that the building is constructed purposefully to permit accused individuals to be brought into the private rear entrance by vehicle. Yet police intentionally avoid use of this convenience for unconvicted, accused people and instead use it only for (convicted or remanded) transferees from Fox Hill Prison!

It therefore appears to be the intended purpose of the police to reserve the shaming process for fresh targets of prosecution, a practice with possibly grave implications for the fairness of the trial process itself.

The judiciary and politicians alike ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing this medieval and unjust practice to persist in a modern Bahamas. It would not survive the first week of a government that was serious about advancing this country.

— Andrew Allen 

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