Friday 4 December, 2020

Possible prison relief for 149 on remand, 239 convicts

Prisoners on remand and those with convictions for low-risk and non-violent crimes, could have some of their freedom returned to them due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

In a media conference on Thursday, Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi announced that as soon as today, the government will begin a process that could lead to the release of 149 people on remand and another 239 people who have been convicted for specific offences. 

“In the vast majority of the cases we are talking about, it’s where people have already been granted bail. A court considered the grant of bail but people are languishing in there because they’re just too poor to access bail,” he said. 

Faris Al Rawi explained that the government was considering early releases for those fitting a particular criterion in an effort to limit overcrowding in the nation’s prisons. 

“We have already pulled the data from the respective sources because we went to work very quickly and have pre-arranged a lot of the information,” he said. 

Pardonable offences under this initiative include failure to pay maintenance, traffic offences, obscene language, marijuana possession and resisting arrest.  

Those with convicted cases who have pending appeals and those who have not appealed will both be considered, but under differing circumstances. 

The AG added that quite a number of the convicted cases being considered are nearing the end of their sentences. 

Al Rawi says these prisoners will be allowed to have their cases submitted so that national security officials and victims will have a say in their potential release.   

“We must hear from the Commissioner of Police, we must hear from the Director of Public Prosecutions, so the prosecution’s point of view, the police’s point of view against the individual’s position has to be balanced otherwise you would not be able to catch the opportunity to understand a victim’s point of view, there may be a victim impact statement, for example,” he explained. 

Al Rawi says the move didn’t come without consideration for the social impact. As such, some of those released will be among the first to experience electronic monitoring as mandated by the courts. 

“We have an electronic monitoring unit, there are approximately 250 devices. That structure for launch was something that we had been working on for quite some time. There are a few things that need to be sorted out about that,” he said. 

Electronic monitoring was previously discussed as part of the updates to the Domestic Violence Act. 

As usual, medical checks will be conducted on prisoners upon their release. 

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