PLP supporters gathered for a Mass Rally on Clifford Park in 2007.
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE EXPLANATION FROM THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY
June 20th, 2010
The Progressive Liberal Party demands an immediate explanation from the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest as to the reasons for the disparity in the numbers of murder cases pending. These calls follow on the heels of Minister Turnquest’s contribution in the House of Assembly on Thursday, June 17, 2010. Under their inept administration, the Criminal Justice System has collapsed.
In the Nassau Guardian of Thursday, June 17, 2010, Minister Turnquest confirmed what the PLP has said all along:
“…continuing unacceptable levels of crime endanger our economic and social well-being and our standing as a country and a people”.
The Minister revealed that more people are on bail for murder than are on remand. He stated that up to April 30, 2010, there are 257 murder cases in the system of which 130 persons are on bail and 127 were on remand. He goes further and indicates that a number of these persons on bail go on to kill more people as well as intimidate and kill witnesses in the cases for which they were charged.
The Minister expressed that the Government sought to counter this by the introduction of a Witness Protection Programme but that it is difficult for the Programme to fulfill its mandate due to the size of the Country and the difficulty in changing the witness’ identity. He also adds that some of the witnesses are unable to go to the U.S. because they have a criminal record of their own.
These statements by the Minister are at most “half-truths” and do not reflect the true and very grave position that The Bahamas finds itself in. Moreover, the Minister’s pronouncement that community policing “will not stop violent crime” clearly shows his lack of understanding and grasp of the task at hand.
First, it cannot be correct that there are only 257 cases pending (the Tribune puts this figure at 252 cases). This number is actually much higher. Between 2000 and 2010, six hundred and fifty murders occurred in The Bahamas most of which occurred under the inept administration of the FNM. Of this number, the Police were able to solve 466 murders and place these cases before the criminal courts as reflected in the table below:
If the Minister is saying that 257 murder cases are pending, it means that between 2000 and the current, 209 cases were concluded. This means that between 2000 and 2010, at least 21 murder cases had to be concluded each year either through the court process or the case was stopped for one reason or another. This has not been the case – what then is the true overall figure of murder cases that are actually pending before the courts?
Further, one must also add the manslaughter cases that are pending to these numbers as well as those “cold cases” that the Police had some success in solving over this same period; these additions significantly increase the number of cases pending before the courts. The above figures also do not take into account those matters where retrials have been ordered or those matters that are still in the system prior to the year 2000.
Attorney General (AG) John Delaney indicated that he was undertaking an audit of all the cases in his Office. Has the audit been completed? Is the AG not responsible for the current state of affairs regarding criminal prosecutions? What is his position on this?
Minister Tommy Turnquest must hang his head in shame for also misleading the Bahamian public regarding the Witness Protection Programme (WPP). The FNM Government halted the Programme and cut its funding when it first came to office without scrutinizing the Programme and determining why it was brought into existence.
The Programme was set up under the PLP administration after extensive consultation and collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago WPP as well as the U.S. Marshalls. The size of our jurisdiction or the inability to change a person’s identity has never been an issue because the primary focus was to eliminate the threat through prompt prosecution and incarceration of the perpetrators. Further, the fact that a person/witness may have a criminal conviction did not hamper anything as special arrangements were made involving other countries to counter this special circumstance where necessary. Moreover, the Minister is fully aware that a witness who was in the WPP (and had a criminal conviction) was able to travel to the USA for treatment for his injuries following our Government’s negotiation with US authorities where these special arrangements were made.
Perhaps the most compelling reason why the PLP says that Minister Tommy Turnquest must hold his head in shame is his lack of understanding and capacity to understand matters relating to crime and national security. The Minister stated:
“Community policing will not stop violent crime, although it will have a dramatic impact on crimes such as house break-ins and armed robberies…”
Minister, armed robbery is undoubtedly a violent crime. In the Penal Code, Chapter 84, armed robbery is:
“… being armed with any offensive instrument, or having made any preparation
for using force or causing harm…”
As a matter of fact, under the FNM administration, more murders have occurred during the commission of armed robberies since 2007 to the present than at any other point in Bahamian history. But this lack of understanding on the part of the Minister is much deeper as the Minister fail to understand that ‘the Police are the community and the community is the Police’. This is how crime is solved and is community policing at work. More murders and violent crimes are prevented and solved because of community policing. The empirical and scientific data is there for all to see.
Further, on a daily basis, the community calls the Police for infants and children who are left home alone or are being abused. Routinely, community policing officers come across these types of cases through moving around in the community as well. In all cases, there is intervention and appropriate courses of action are taken. Is this not preventing serious, violent crimes? The Bahamas periodically experiences gruesome cases of murder where such children are often the victims.
The fact that a report from HMP reveal that there was only one murder conviction over the last two years justifies the need for the Minister of National Security to hold his head in profound shame. The FNM Administration has produced no plausible initiatives to effectively deal with these crime challenges. It is estimated that it will take some twelve years to dispose of the pending murder cases.