Call For "Urgent Need" To Bring Justice System Up To Date As Over 114 Persons Are Out On Bail For Murder In The Bahamas

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Police officers stands outside of the Supreme Court building on Bank Lane downtown Nassau for this photo shoot with vacationers.

NASSAU, Bahamas – Minister of National Security and Immigration, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said the Juries Amendment Bill, once passed, will improve the operations of the criminal justice system by amending a critical area of law to bring it in line with current realities.

Mr. Turnquest stressed that there is an “urgent need” to bring crime prevention and the criminal justice system up to date. He said the Government of The Bahamas accepts the fact that halting and reversing crime in the country requires leadership and a coherent policy framework and will do just that.

The Minister pointed out that the Juries Bill will in “no way” interferes with the fundamental right to Trial by Jury in criminal cases before the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.

The provisions of the Bill will maintain the number of jurors required in capital cases (murder and treason) at 12, while reducing the number of jurors for non-capital cases from 12 to 9.

He said the Juries Bill will assist in the expeditious empanelling of juries from the limited pool which currently exists, adding that it will consequently improve the operations of the criminal justice system.

“To understand the urgent need to bring our crime prevention and criminal justice system up to date is to understand the tremendous burden that the full range of crime and criminality, both national and international, is placing on our courts, our law enforcement agencies and our Prison,” Mr. Turnquest noted.

“The Bahamas has a serious crime problem. Murder, rape, assault, armed robbery, robbery, burglary, shop breaking, theft, stolen vehicles, fraud and corruption, all feature prominently in disturbing crime trends in the country,” Minister Turnquest added.

Mr. Turnquest said many of the “miscreants” who commit murder or are murdered, are known to law enforcement officials.

“When we analyze the murder statistics so far this year, 64 per cent of the murder victims had a prior criminal record and 74 per cent of murder suspects had a prior criminal record,” Mr. Turnquest said. “In fact, 10 murder suspects charged this year were previously charged with murder.”

An analysis of crime and criminality in the country, he noted, reveals that most murders and other violent crimes against the person stem from arguments and fights that erupt over mundane, every day matters such as money and respect. Ongoing feuds, the Minister added, also result in murder in the country.

“Clearly the meaning of respect in this context is convoluted and does not accord with the kind of respect which our values and traditions as a nation are based,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Mr. Turnquest said the war on crime is everyone’s business and that everyone should do their part to put an end to it.

“We have a responsibility, nay an obligation, to cooperate in the fight against crime. This cannot be a solo performance by the Government. The whole orchestra must play,” he said.

“For example, a compliant public breaches the immigration laws of The Bahamas when they employ persons who are illegally in our country. Public Officers betray the public trust when they do not faithfully apply the laws and policies of The Bahamas or deliberately look the wrong way when those laws and policies are being breached.

“The sale of counterfeit goods is a breach of copyright laws. Running traffic lights; creating three lanes where there should be two, is very much against the law. Money from a ‘good son or daughter’ who does not have a job might also mean that the son or daughter is breaking the law and that the money may be coming from criminal enterprises.

“This Government knows that it would be illusionary to think that a problem that evolved over many years can be solved overnight or that there is some broad-brush solution. We accept that halting and reversing crime in our country requires leadership and a coherent policy framework and we are providing this,” Mr. Turnquest added.

  • The reduction of the number of persons siting on juries will affect to the operation of the justice system very little. Theitemm will make an indent into the backlog of cases would be
    1. More courts and Supreme Court Judges
    2. Complete the computerisation of the court system by completing implimentation of the court reporting system and making their transcripts legal for appeals etc.
    3. Priorise the cases heard first with the more seriouse cases and those connected with thos cases which are on bail.
    4. Set up a department in the criminal justic system whose ony purpose is to ensure person who are to give evidence is available for their cases.