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JAMAICA | Private Bar questions need for changes to Bail Act

Featured Attorney-at-law Isat Buchannan  has questioned the rationale for the proposed changes to the Bail Act Attorney-at-law Isat Buchannan has questioned the rationale for the proposed changes to the Bail Act
KINGSTON, Jamaica, September 3, 2019 - The suggestion by National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang that constitutional changes may be necessary to strengthen the Bail Act to allow for prolonged detention of accused persons without charge, is not going down well with members of the legal profession.

Speaking on Power 106's Morning Agenda programme on Monday Dr. Chang said “One sometimes wonders, if it was not gangs killing gangs, would we accept the limitation placed on us by the constitution so willingly?"

“Given the severity of the problem, it is justified to begin to look at our Constitution because while we don't want to make any fundamental changes, maybe we should create windows in there for situations like these rather than having to go straight to a state of emergency," he argued.

The National Security Minister noted that Trinidad and Tobago, which is also grappling with gun crimes, recently amended its Bail Act so that persons arrested for possession of a firearm can be detained for up to 120 days without bail.

Dr. Chang said the crime problem in Jamaica is even more serious.

In response to Dr. Chang, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels commented  that the proposed amendment would be a breach of the Constitution, while attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan has questioned the rationale for the proposed changes to the Bail Act which is expected to be brought before Cabinet this legislative year.

Mr. Buchanan, told the Morning Agenda, that there is already a provision in the legislation which outlines the circumstances under which an individual can be denied bail.

He argued that the purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused attends court, however, this requirement must be balanced with the presumption of innocence.

"We can't say we are locking up criminals to protect law abiding citizens. You're not a criminal until you're convicted. So if you are suspected for a crime, the presumption of innocence is a constitutional right; and so unless... it is that there are not conditions that can pretty much ensure that you will come to trial... then there is no basis upon which you can detain somebody," he contended.

Mr. Buchanan added that the proposed changes could disrupt the economic lives of persons, who can be held for an extended period and later released because the police failed to make a case against them.

He said the Government would also have to increase legal aid if the proposed changes to the Bail Act are implemented.

Mr. Buchanan has suggested that the police could explore having the court prevent persons suspected of committing a crime from leaving their communities instead of denying them bail.

  • Countries: Jamaica
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