Accused murderers committing similar crimes while on bail — Montague

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 16, 2016

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NATIONAL Security Minister Robert Montague yesterday revealed that 134 cases of murder now before the courts involve defendants who were granted bail in previous murder matters.


The minister made the disclosure during an address at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, in which he argued for a review of the manner in which bail is granted in murder cases.


"There is an instance where one man was arrested for murder, offered bail, came out, murdered again, this time two times, apprehended, offered bail, came out, murdered again, apprehended, offered bail, took the bail, came out, murdered again, was apprehended, offered bail. His mother was actively seeking bail and the community said ‘don’t bail him’. She insisted and she was killed, and the offer of bail is still on the table," the minister said relating the chain of events.


Montague said that, while the clear-up rate for murder is now at 44 per cent, the country recorded its highest number of arrests for murder last year, which tallied over 700.


"Faster trial times are urgently needed, so are better courtrooms and better working conditions for our judges and lawyers, and indeed we have to review the ease with which some persons get bail," Minister Montague said.


Montague’s declaration follows closely on Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ announcement that the Bail Act will be amended "such that persons charged with murder will be ineligible for bail under certain circumstances".


Meanwhile, the national security minister said the ministry will be working to reduce the rates of recidivism by putting inmates to work and employing literacy and other initiatives.


"I am told by the Correctional Services Department that the reoffending rate is 28 per cent. Others have told me that it is close to 40 per cent," he said.


Of the plans for the literacy training, Montague said he has given directives that every inmate be tested and those found wanting be engaged in programmes to be implemented in collaboration with the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Cuban Yo Si Puedo (Yes I can) programme, which claims to make an individual literate in eight weeks.


"They are mine for the time that I have them and it’s a disgrace to die an illiterate," the minister said.


"When you leave our penal institutions you must be able to read and write, because illiteracy, in my view, helps to breed some of the problems we have on the domestic fronts, and helps to hold back conflict resolution," the minister said.


In tandem with the literacy initiative, Minister Montague said prisoners will be farming callaloo and rearing layers in order to feed themselves for at least one day, starting next month.


"I don’t believe that persons within our penal institutions should be sitting down and having three free meals a day, watching television, and sitting down and chatting and planning what they are going to do when they come out. They must work," he said.


Montague said the inmates at New Broughton Sunset Adult Correctional Centre in Manchester have already started an egg production initiative and are producing enough to help feed inmates at other institutions.


"Tamarind Farm, I am told, has planted over five acres of callaloo, but we must put them to work. It’s not Sandals Tamarind Farm," he added, evoking laughter from the audience.

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