Gun Violence in Barbados: 100 Days Jail Before Bail?

Recently, there have been discussions on whether a person charged with an offence under the Firearms Act Cap. 179 of Barbados should be automatically sent to jail for 100 days or some other specified period before bail is available to him.gun_violence-1-pic

In my view, a person charged with an offence should be treated as innocent until he admits guilt or until he is found guilty. To implement laws which mandate the automatic remand of a person who is charged with a firearm offence not only usurps the power of the presiding judicial officer but defeats a fundamental principle of the rule of law, that is, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The Bail Act already sets out the circumstances under which a judicial officer may deny bail. The Bail Act also states what factors the judge or magistrate may consider when deciding whether or not to grant bail.

In my opinion, Barbados should not follow the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and amend its Bail Act to mandate that a person charged with certain firearm offences is not eligible for bail or that such a person must spend a certain period on remand before he or she can be considered for bail. Of course, the Court should always seek to balance the interests of society with the interests of the accused person. If the person charged is fit for bail in accordance with the Bail Act, the judicial officer should exercise his discretion to grant him bail.

                                                                                                                   – Kara-Je Kellman

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Should Persons Accused Of Murder Get Bail?

bail picIn a preceding article we spoke about Bail in Barbados generally, with particular focus on the Barbadian Bail Act. If you read that article entitled ‘Bail in Barbados- Did You Know?’ you may recall that the Court has a discretion to grant or refuse to grant a person bail and in exercising this discretion the Court may consider certain factors set out by the Bail Act. For some time, Barbadians have been reacting to the Court’s granting of bail to persons accused of certain types of offences. Of particular interest to Barbadians is the Court’s granting of Bail to persons accused of murder. We will therefore briefly discuss whether a person accused of murder should be granted bail.

We realized in the former article that while Magistrates do not have the power to grant bail to persons accused of murder, judges of the High Court have the authority to grant bail to such persons. In Barbados, we have noticed that persons who were on remand for years after being charged with murder, have been granted bail by the Court. This has led to many persons expressing their disapproval with the Court’s decisions to grant  accused persons bail.

Some persons complain that such a decision is unfair to family members of the victim. It is completely understandable that the relatives and friends of the victim would feel some emotion upon hearing that the person charged with the murder of their loved one was granted bail.

There are also persons who disagree with the granting of bail to persons accused of murder because they believe they pose a threat to members of society. There are others, who, because they may not understand what bail is and how it works argue that the accused was released with a slap on the wrist.

Before I refer to the Constitution of Barbados, I must point out that a person accused of murder has not been found guilty of the serious offence; they have only been charged with murder. It is of the greatest importance that we digest this. An accused person has not pleaded guilty neither has he or she been found guilty of the offence for which he or she is charged. Bail should therefore not be seen as a slap on the wrist since it is not a sentence. In fact, time spent on remand awaiting trial may be considered as punishment since, where there is a finding of guilt, the Court treats such time as part of the sentence.

I must also highlight that the fundamental question, among the many questions with which the Court is faced in deciding whether to grant bail, is whether the accused person will appear at Court for the trial of the matter.

Let us turn our attention to section 13 of the Constitution which provides for the right to personal liberty. Subsection 3 is of great significance to the matter at hand. I will set it out in full to avoid butchering the provision.

Any person who is arrested or detained-

(a) for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the order of a court; or

(b) upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence,

and who is not released, shall be brought before a court as soon as is reasonably practicable; and if any person arrested or detained upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence is not tried within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against him, he shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including in particular such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial.

Therefore, given this Constitutional provision and the provisions contained in the Bail Act, a person accused of murder is entitled to apply for bail and further, has a right to bail if he or she is not tried in a reasonable time. The Court may attach suitable conditions to the bail to ensure that the accused appears at Court for subsequent court hearings or trial.

                                                                                                                                        – Kara-Je Kellman

(You can read the article ‘Bail In Barbados – Did You Know?’ at: https://bealexattorneys.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/bail-in-barbados-did-you-know/)

Bail In Barbados – Did You Know?

jailIn Barbados, a person charged with an offence or convicted of an offence is entitled to bail, subject to the Bail Act Cap. 122A (“the Act”). The fundamental test in determining whether to grant bail is whether the accused will return to court for the determination of the matter. The Court also takes into account other factors when exercising its power to grant bail or not to grant bail.

According to Section 5 (2) of the Act, the Court must take into consideration relevant factors including the following:

(a) “the nature and seriousness of the offence or default, and the probable method of dealing with the defendant for it;

(b) the character, antecedents, associations and community ties of the defendant;

(c) the defendant’s record as respects the fulfilment of his obligations under previous grants of bail;

(d) the strength of the evidence of his having committed the offence or having defaulted, except where the defendant’s case is adjourned for inquiries or a report; and

(e) the length of time the defendant would spend in custody if the court were to exercise the power conferred on it by section 218A of the Magistrate’s Courts Act” (power to remand the defendant in custody).

According to Section 5 (1) of the Act, the Court may refuse to grant an accused person bail if it believes that the accused person would fail to surrender to custody; reoffend or interfere with witnesses. Further, the Court may not grant bail if it is satisfied that the accused should be kept in custody for his own protection; for the protection of the community or if he is a child or young person, for his own welfare. The Court may also deny to grant bail to a person who is charged with an offence alleged to have been committed while on bail.

The Court may grant bail with conditions. The Court may, before releasing the defendant, require him to provide a surety to ensure his surrender to custody. Further, the Court may require a defendant to surrender his passport, report to a police station on appointed days and at appointed times, order the defendant to comply with any requirement to ensure that: the defendant surrenders to custody, does not commit an offence while on bail, does not interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice or, makes himself available for the purpose of enabling inquiries or a report of any medical examination to be made to assist the court in dealing with him for the offence. If a defendant who is on bail fails to surrender to custody, the Court may issue a warrant for his arrest.

It is important to note that a magistrate does not have the power to grant bail to a person accused of murder, treason, high treason or an indictable offence under the Firearms Act. A person accused of the above offences may only be granted bail by a High Court Judge.

Where bail is denied, the defendant may reapply for bail at the Magistrate’s Court and may also apply for bail at the High Court. If the Court does not grant bail to a person who has been charged with an offence punishable by imprisonment, the accused person will be remanded until the determination of his case or until bail is subsequently applied for and granted.

                                                                                                                                            -Kara-Je Kellman