Friday 10 July, 2020

Law Association cautions Griffith on Bail Bill

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) is cautioning against using the Bail Bill as a way of reducing the country's spiralling murder rate.

In a statement on Sunday, LATT said the plan by the Commissioner of Police to have the laws governing the grant of bail amended as a measure to reduce the murder rate, has a certain neat logic to it.

It said the logic is that if all persons who the police suspect to be in possession of firearms, or to have committed crimes involving the use of firearms, are compulsorily detained pending trial, there would eventually, in theory, be fewer at large to commit murders. 

The Association also noted that according to the Commissioner, the off-duty police officer slain by bandits, and the suspect gunned down by police officers in a shootout, would both have been alive today if the suspect had been denied bail for the firearm offences with which he had been previously charged.

However, it said the Commissioner’s plan can only be achieved at great sacrifice to fundamental constitutional principles.

LATT said the abiding problem with laws which automatically deny an accused the constitutional right to bail is the grave potential of taking away his or her liberty pending trial when there is in fact insufficient evidence to convict.

"Laws which indiscriminately deny the right to bail, therefore, not only infringe the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but also the right not to be deprived of liberty except by a fair process which establishes guilt on the basis of cogent evidence," the Association stated.

LATT added that laws which empower police officers to make such decisions bring us closer to a police state and not one based on the rule of law.

The Law Association has therefore cautioned against using the Bill as a means of reducing the murder rate.

"It is therefore incumbent on us to caution against the blithe abandonment of our constitutional protections in search of short term solutions to deep-seated societal problems.

The fact that the murder rate has been steadily increasing over the years under the stewardship of all political contenders and Commissioners of Police of varying degrees of skill and enthusiasm, is enough to compel us, together, to consider more radical solutions and to focus more on the root causes of crime, even as we tweak and refine our policing strategies," it added.

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