Senators express concerns about bail bill, but no changes made

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The bail bill, the proposed legislation to better regulate the granting or refusal of bail and other related issues, has been approved in the Senate despite concerns raised by some members from both sides of the aisle.

According to Senator Mary Claire Hurst, who moved the Bill, it seeks to remove “the subjectivity” of how bail is granted and formalise what is expected when someone is seeking bail after being arrested and charged.

The bill is divided into several parts, with the first section addressing the definition of words and clauses such as “bail”, “court” and “conviction”. The second section sets out the general conditions regarding bail and emphasises that a person accused of a crime is entitled to a bail hearing as soon as practical, and within 48 hours of being charged. That section also deals with the power of the Police, Magistrates, and High Court Judges to grant or refuse bail to an adult accused or a child accused.

While there were no concerns about those areas, several questions were asked and arguments made against part three of the Bill, which focusses on the procedure for carrying out bail and provisions addressing the use of a surety to secure bail for a defendant.

These provisions include: the financial resources of the person; the character and antecedents of the person; the proximity of the person to the defendant; the readiness of the person to comply with the obligations of being a surety; the ability of the person to ensure that the defendant complies with the bail conditions that may be imposed on the defendant; and whether the person is also on bail after being charged with the alleged commission of a criminal offence.

A surety is a person who stands as a representative of an accused and gives assurance to the police or court that he or she will ensure that the accused attends court and obeys the conditions of bail. If the accused absconds, the individual who serves as surety could lose the cash component or property used as security before the court in the place of the cash component for the bail.

Opposition Senator Shawn Nicholas who was first to question the requirements to become a surety, said too much emphasis is being placed on the financial means of the individual who would want to stand as surety for an accused.

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