Amendment to Bail Bill passed with Opposition support

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Amendment to Bail Bill passed with Opposition support

The amendment to the Bail Bill was laid and passed unanimously during the sitting of the House of Representatives yesterday, July 1.

All 38 MPs, inclusive of the Opposition, voted in favour of the bill and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said the Opposition’s support was in the public’s interest.

“This is not a garbage bill. This is a bill which remedies some of the defects in the law which, because of the Akili Charles judgement does give us a balance of proportionality, so we are prepared to support it. This has to do with the public interest of the people of TT,” she said.

The amended bail bill will make provisions for restriction of bail of people charged with serious offences. The bill also provided that people charged under serious offences may also apply under “exceptional circumstances.”

The bill seeks to give effect to the ruling of the Privy Council in the case of Akili Charles against the state in 2022. The judgement empowers a judge or High Court master to set bail to murder accused.

In 2022, the Court of Appeal, comprising Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justices of Appeal Mira Dean-Amorer and Malcolm Holdip, reversed a High Court decision in a constitutional challenge by Charles.

The court ruled that the Bail act of 1994, which made it impossible for judicial officers to consider bail for someone accused of murder, was unconstitutional.

In laying the bill before Parliament, Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, said amendments were in the interest of law-abiding citizens who were being terrorised by criminals charged with serious offences yet granted bail.

He put forward statistics which suggested that a majority of people before the courts were repeat offenders.

From 2022-2023, there was a 139 per cent increase of convicted male re-offenders.

“The Government recognises the proposed restrictions on the exercise of the court’s discretion to grant or refuse bail to people charged with serious offences will not somehow miraculously put an end to the wave of criminality we’ve been faced with in recent years,” he said.

“The re-offending statistics that I have placed before this house justifies the imposition of a reverse burden on such people and an enhanced burden to show the existence of exceptional circumstances to grant bail to the most serious of offences.”

“We recognise that the majority of citizens are law-abiding citizens, constantly being terrorised by the recidivism of repeat offenders coming back out and committing crimes.”

The Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the law has to change to deal with criminal elements. “Because of the exceptional circumstances of the behaviour of a small number of citizens who are terrorizing this country with violent crime of the worst kind, the people’s representatives in this house are to take it upon ourselves to change the rule so an advantage could come to the wider law-abiding population. If it inconveniences the smaller criminal minority then so be it.”

“Parliament, in our system is to make the law, the judiciary’s role is to interpret the law and apply the law. If we all do that then the criminals will find themselves with no safe haven,” he said.