Conflicting messages on bail
We are grappling to find the rationale that informs the decisions taken by our courts in relation to the question of bail.
Two weeks ago, a car dealer was brutally murdered by three men who were later apprehended by the good efforts of the police. As it turned, out one of the men accosted for the murder of the St Elizabeth businessman was on bail for murder and shooting with intent.
We also remember the case with Tesha Miller, the reported leader of the infamous Klansman gang in Spanish Town, who was given bail four times before finally being found guilty.
On Wednesday, the alleged mastermind of a cyberspace extortion racket faced the courts and was remanded in custody. We are at a loss as to why the courts would, in one instance, grant bail to someone accused of murder and shooting with intent, while refuse bail for a cybercrime offence.
This newspaper does not in any way devalue the hurt, shame and distress victims of cyber-extortion or cyber-pornography experience. Indeed, we felt the pain of one of those victims who bravely fought damage to her personal life by recounting her experience on national television last Friday night. She was brave and we applaud her for coming forward.
Notwithstanding, we believe that premeditated murder is the worst possible crime. Life is the most precious gift to mankind and must be cherished and protected at all costs. Further, the likelihood of a possible cybercrime offender repeating an offence while on bail must be considerably less than a possible murderer.
They are different crimes which carry different punishments and as such should be treated differently by the courts, just as shooting with intent to take a life cannot be compared with larceny. Maybe we are wrong, but we are willing to accept that wrong.
We fully understand and appreciate that there exists a Bail Act, and Her Majesty's judges are given the powers of discretion on matters regarding bail. The exercise of that power of discretion is what we are concerned about, even with the caveat that discretion is a deep personal consideration which should be based on knowledge and experience.
This discretion, of necessity, must include a careful assessment of the possibility of crimes being commissioned while on bail. Not for one moment are we saying or implying that persons on murder must not be granted bail. Our concern is based on the mixed messages sent to the populace when an accused killer is granted bail and an accused cybercrime offender is remanded.
Most Jamaicans have little or no faith at all in our justice system. Sending conflicting messages does little to restore confidence and will, in fact, develop an even deeper chasm between the justice system and the populace, which it is supposed to serve.
The chief justice, as the person responsible for the administration of our courts, is duty bound to ensure that at all times there is a semblance of orthodoxy within the system. Madame Chief Justice, we only ask that you think on these things.