Editorial

Give DPP the right to appeal bail

Tuesday, January 29, 2013    

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Last October, British newspapers published Government data showing that every 10 days a murder is committed in Great Britain by offenders on bail. According to the statistics, at least 37 criminals were convicted of murder while on bail for another offence in 2011 -- an average of three every month.

The statistics also revealed that 436 murders were committed between 2000 and 2011 by persons on bail, while a further 180 crimes were committed by offenders every day while on bail.

In addition, the data showed that in 2011, a total of 65,627 criminals were convicted for a new offence they had committed while on bail.

We draw your attention to those frightening statistics to support a point we have repeatedly made in this space, that circumstances will arise that require a review of the laws relating to bail.

Our focus on that issue has been renewed with the unfortunate murder of Special Constable Troy Foster in Malvern, St Elizabeth last Thursday.

Special Constable Foster was shot dead by gunmen who engaged a police patrol in the town. It emerged after the shooting that one of the gunmen -- Tyrone Edmond, who was also shot dead in that encounter -- was out on bail, having been charged with the murder of 60-year-old pensioner, Mr Cecil Bennett in Top Hill, St Elizabeth in 2010.

We recall as well that one of the three suspects held for the brutal murder of Mr Michael Rochester, a 26-year-old used car dealer, in August last year, was on bail. The suspect, the police reported, was facing charges of murder and shooting with intent.

Readers will remember that Mr Rochester, who lived in St Elizabeth, had advertised a car for sale and, after receiving an expression of interest from "some guys", accompanied them to test drive the vehicle. The men, however, shot him and dumped his body on the Spur Tree main road.

There have been a number of other cases in which offenders on bail have committed serious crimes, most notably murder.

The police have, in the past, complained that their efforts to fight crime are being affected by the ease with which some offenders are afforded bail.

Indeed, Assistant Commissioner of Police Wray Palmer had, some years ago, expressed a desire on behalf of the Police Officers' Association that the courts review the administration of bail.

"We need to consider the freedom of a violent criminal versus the security of the nation," Mr Palmer said at the time.

We share his view, particularly in cases where the offender is charged with murder. For while we hold firmly to the principle that individuals are entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, we believe that there are some cases that require greater examination and consideration before bail is granted.

Communities, we believe, should be protected from individuals who have been identified as extremely dangerous.

In 2010, after the Tivoli Gardens operation which was triggered by a brazen challenge to the State by gunmen, the Parliament passed six anti-crime bills with tough measures.

Among them was a provision giving the Director of Public Prosecutions the right of appeal where bail is granted by the court. That measure, however, was implemented for only a year.

It needs to be tabled again with the intention of making it permanent.

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