Barbados: PM says way clear for expedited murder trials

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(Barbados Today) – With the resources that Government has pumped into law enforcement and the judiciary, there is no “excuse” for persons on murder or gun-related charges, not to have their day in court within six to nine months of being charged.

This is the challenge which Prime Minister Mia Mottley has laid down for lawmen, making it clear that she wants the days of murder accused receiving bail to be a disappearing sight in this country’s rear-view mirror.

Speaking at the opening of the new police station at Hastings, Christ Church this afternoon, Mottley contended that with recent upgrades in technological tools as well as the increase in the criminal courts from two to five, the time has come for the criminal element to be shown that there are swift consequences for their actions.

“This notion that persons can be on bail for murder is so repugnant to me that I can’t even begin to understand how a person on bail for murder can be charged with another murder. I speak not as a defence attorney but rather as a defender of this nation and we have to recognize that in order to be fair to the defendant, what is required is quick justice.

“To that extent therefore, the Government has made available the requisite resources, such that there is no excuse for us not to be able to turn around a murder case or a serious criminal case, particularly gun-related, within six to nine months of charging a person,” said Mottley.

She added, “The police don’t charge unless they have evidence and if you have the evidence, then the evidence must be capable of being led. Therefore, there is no reason why you can’t lead the evidence and have the matter heard within six to nine months.”

Last April, Government introduced changes to the Bail Act, making it mandatory for persons charged with murder or an offence under the Firearms Act, to spend 24 months on remand before they are eligible for bail.

The amended act now reads: “ . . . In any case where a person is charged with murder, treason and high treason or an offence under the Firearms Act, which is punishable with imprisonment of ten years or more, that such a person shall not be granted bail unless 24 months have passed.”

However, Mottley contended that in order for these changes to be effective, lawmen and prosecutors must bring cases to court in a timely manner.

“The bail amendments that we did are premised on the fact that they will get bail after a certain period but the obligation is on the state through the police and the prosecutors to bring the evidence quickly before a court for it to be tested by the lawyers and for the people to render their verdict one way or the other,” she explained.

The Prime Minister also made it clear that she expected similar haste from the Appeals Court, noting that she was making provisions for this part of the process to be completed within 12-15 months after a person is convicted.

“We have also determined that the settling of the record of appeal and the two appellant processes available to the person, should take no more than another 12 to 15 months. If we can aspire and achieve that, I have a very strong instinct that tells me that when people see that persons who have been brazen will be held accountable immediately, there will be a change of heart among those thinking of getting themselves involved in foolishness,” Mottley stressed.

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