NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander says he fully supports the position outlined by National Security Minister Wayne Munroe, that people charged with murder should be kept in custody rather than be released on bail.
Fernander, who was recently appointed to the position of top cop, said that 55 per cent of murder victims for the year were on bail and that there could also be swift justice by allowing persons to go straight to trial and alleviate instances of retaliation.
"If you're lucky enough to get off, based on some things happening, then that's fine. But let's bring these matters in a reasonable time," he said.
Earlier this week, Minister Munroe told local media that people charged with murder should be kept in custody for their own protection and that more than 30 men who were out on bail this year have been murdered.
Fernander, speaking at a Rotary Club meeting, said many of the men who were killed were on bail for murder, armed robberies and other serious crimes.
"Shortly after they are released from prison, they are dead," he said, adding that "based on our intel (intelligence) we believe that the suspects for [those killings] are the rival gangs. Their enemies are responsible for that," said the police chief.
"Again, you can see that the solvency rate is 58 per cent. Yes, we find them and put them behind bars. We go above and beyond to convince the court that if this individual is given bail either he gets killed or some other relatives or friend who he hangs around becomes a potential target.
"We see it happen. In the print media a couple of weeks ago, one of the courts did just that and that was based on our intel that [we] shared with the prosecutor — that if this individual is placed on bail, give him about two or three days and he is dead.
"The judge at the time remanded him. He should say thanks to that judge because based on the intel, he was a target. We have the information. We continue to go after them to try to disrupt what is going on."
Late last month, the London-based Privy Council dismissed an appeal by the Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General that sought to determine whether Section 5 (1) of the Bail Act 1994 is inconsistent with the country's constitution.
The Privy Council, which is also The Bahamas highest and final court, noted that "under the bail provision the prohibition of bail occurs as a result of being charged and applies pre-committal, as in this case.
"It may well therefore include people in respect of whom there is insubstantial evidence of guilt. That is vividly illustrated by the facts of the present case in which it was ultimately found that the respondent had no case to answer…
"A person who is eventually acquitted or discharged at a preliminary enquiry may therefore have been deprived of liberty for a substantial period of time, causing serious harm to their life chances, without there ever having been a consideration by a judicial officer whether the denial of bail is suitable in the particular circumstances of their case," the Privy Council noted.
Fernander told the Rotarians that law enforcement authorities have been using Operation Ceasefire to target gang members along with removing firearms and drugs off the streets.
Gang violence has been an ongoing issue in the country, particularly with gang activities and affiliations happening amongst schools.
"As we speak, we have a team of security officers who will be assisting the police in the schools who are training now, a one-week training course at the police college," he said, reiterating that these are ongoing with the Ministry of Education.