Golding told journalists during a People’s National Party (PNP) press conference at the party’s headquarters in St Andrew on Thursday, “…This is a dangerous path that has been outlined by the attorney general and we will not support any abrogation or rescission of the constitutional rights of our people for which our people have fought long and hard. We are a democracy based on the rule of law, and we can find solutions without having to throw away the rights that we have cherished.”
He maintained that taking away the rights of Jamaicans who are before the courts is not an effective solution in addressing a spike in lotto scamming and shooting in western Jamaica, arguing that this would further encourage excessive use of force by the police and in some instances cause extra-judicial killings.
The Opposition spokesman on Justice pointed out that “It is very inappropriate to be proposing very controversial measures that are of dubious constitutionality in a Sectoral Debate when there is a minister of security and minister of justice with portfolio responsibility for the issues she was raising. I don’t think this attorney general understands her proper role, and it is becoming problematic. This is the second incident in recent times where she has been in a controversy.”
He insisted that the presumption of innocence was a foundational constitutional principle, underlined in constitutional arrangement and the way in which the rule of law is understood in Jamaica. He argued that the right to bail is derived from the presumption of innocence, and argued that any removal or restriction of the right to bail in murder cases has to be approached carefully.
“…We are, therefore, concerned that it is now being proposed to go down that road again when it has been tried before fairly recently and has been a failure. Any arbitrary prohibition on bail is going to be deemed as unconstitutional, because the Bail Act is quite clear of the factors the court must take into account whether or not to grant bail,” said Senator Golding.
“…The attorney general needs to stay in her lane. She is the legal advisor to the Government; she is the guardian of the legal rights of the people. And as much as she would like to take on policy and become some kind of quasi minister of justice and quasi minister of national security, she’s going to get herself into increasing problems if she doesn’t leave the portfolios of those ministers to them…,” Golding said.
Malahoo Forte, in her contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Tuesday, said to successfully tackle the country’s murder problem, some of the fundamental rights and freedoms which are guaranteed to Jamaicans “may have to be abrogated, abridged or infringed”.
The attorney general said that evidence being examined was enough to convince the Government that “such action may be demonstrably justified in this free and democratic society”.
Malahoo Forte said that Government would be seeking to amend the Bail Act this year and that radical changes are to follow with no bail for murder, unless self-defence arises on the Crown’s case and the likelihood of acquittal is high.
She added that while judicial discretion must be preserved and respected, Parliament, in the exercise of its powers to pass laws for peace, order and good Government, will have to set the threshold for the consequences that will flow when people choose to murder and cause mayhem.
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