Hon. Kwasi Thompson M.P. /Member of Parliament for Pineridge
NASSAU, Bahamas – Major improvements have been made to policing in Grand Bahama with the arrival of new vehicles and the arrests of vagrants in the shopping areas of Freeport, Pineridge MP Kwasi Thompson said Wednesday in the House of Assembly.
Mr. Thompson, who seconded the moving of a Bill for an Act to Amend the Juries Act, credited the Free National Movement’s “Trust Agenda” for the enhanced attention that is being paid to neighbourhood policing in Grand Bahama.
“I congratulate the Minister of National Security (the Hon. Tommy Turnquest) and the Commissioner of Police (Mr. Paul Farquharson) for implementing the neighbourhood policing programme,” said Mr. Thompson, who is also Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly. “This programme gives more focused attention on crime fighting and allows the social aspect to be managed by other agencies.
“I am told that police officers across the country welcomed this change and see this as a positive step in crime fighting.”
The Pineridge MP underscored that police officers in Grand Bahama “have successfully implemented the neighbourhood policing programme. I am advised that the Grand Bahama Police Force has received two neighbourhood policing vehicles so far, which have been dispatched to the central division and the western division.”
According to Mr. Thompson, crime fighters on the island are anticipating additional vehicles for other divisions.
“I am further advised,” he said, “that this new initiative allows for more intelligence gathering and allows them to identify hot spots. They have been able to increase mobile patrol and use them in their school patrols.”
He said under the Government’s policy the Grand Bahama police “have become more effective and have been able to have a greater presence.”
Mr. Thompson added that just recently, the downtown shopping district of Grand Bahama has seen the increase in the arrest of numerous vagrants who plague this area because of the Government’s policy and the superb execution of the police.
In his contribution to the debate on the amendment Bill which seeks to reduce the number of jurors in criminal cases (except cases of murder or treason) from 12 to nine, Mr. Thompson pointed out that use of 12 jurors “is a matter of tradition rather than on logic.”
He said to reduce this number of jurors to nine “lessens the burden of jury service.”
“This Government is charged with improving our judicial system and I have seen the very real problem of not having enough jurors present to empanel a jury, which wastes time and money.
“These changes will, I believe, make empanelling a jury easier which will in turn improve our judicial system. The Government ought to be commended for its bold step to improve our system,” Mr. Thompson noted.
Concerning the selection of a specified 12-member jury panel, Mr. Thompson said he was skeptical as to the origin of that number.
“In looking at the history of this number 12,” he stated, “it is difficult to pinpoint where this number came from and why it was settled on 12. There does not appear to be any relevant reason for having the number of 12 jurors except that it has been that way throughout history.”
Concerning the “preemptory challenges” that were allowed when a juror was selected and before he/she took a seat on a jury, Mr. Thompson said it is wise to control the use of these challenges by reducing them.
A preemptory challenge enabled the defence and prosecution to challenge a juror without giving a reason for the challenge.
Mr. Thompson reminded members that preemptory challenges were abolished in the United Kingdom in 1988.
“We do not have a system of questioning our jurors,” said Mr. Thompson, “therefore, it is quite possible these preemptory challenges became based on hunches, which are based on stereotypes and the use of stereotypes may result in one group being challenged more than others.”