Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bail amendment bill passes with no oppostion support

Parliament passed the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2013 early Saturday morning following a marathon sitting that began the day before. The bill required a three-fifths special majority, which amounted to 26.

All 27 MPs on the government side vote for it and 10 of the 12 opposition members voted against. Keith Rowley and Patrick Mnanning were not present when members voted. Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner abstained.

The legislation is still two steps before becoming law. It must also pass in the Senate before getting presidential assent. 

Legislators made changes to the legislation during the committee stage. They added a sunset clause, which means the measure automatically ends in three years.

One addition includes offences against children. The amenment means anyone who was convicted of an offence against a child and is later charged with a similar offence within a decade of that conviction may be denied bail for an initial 120 days. 

In wrapping debate of the bill, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan criticised the Opposition for its lack of support. He dismissed many of the opposition's criticisms, including the fear that the provisions would cause even more overcrowing in the prison system.

Ramlogan told MPs the normal average law-abiding citizen in Trinidad and Tobago has absolutely nothing to fear from the legislation. "The only people who should have anything to fear are those individuals who know they have a previous conviction and are still contemplating committing further crimes!" he said.

"These individuals have every reason to be afraid! I will make the message loud and clear! If you have a previous conviction for a serious offence and you are so much as CHARGED for another offence then you will get no bail for 120 days!

"Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that to even fall within the parameters of this Bill a person would have had to have received a CONVICTION in the past 10 years for offenses such as:

  • arson
  • demanding money with menaces
  • robbery with aggravation
  • shooting or wounding with intent
  • possession of a firearm or ammunition without a licence
  • grievous sexual assault
  • rape
  • kidnapping
  • kidnapping for ransom etc
"How many “good and law-abiding citizens”, do any of us know, who have been convicted for offences such as these in the past 10 years? I dare say none, Mr. Speaker. Yet it is only this small category of persons who will fall within the parameters of this Bill."

The AG pointed out that in 1994 the PNM government was first to create restrictions on bail by introducing the concept of 3 convictions in 10 years. 

"It was Act No. 18 of 1994, piloted by the PNM administration, which introduced the concept of 3 strikes then you get no bail. The provisions in the 1994 PNM led Act could also be accused of removing judicial discretion, Mr. Speaker. So why is it that this administration is receiving criticisms for strengthening the very type of legislation which was originally introduced by the PNM?" Ramlogan asked.

He said the present government is not convinced that "three strikes" is a strong enough deterrent, noting that 1 strike in 10 years is a more appropriate way to go. 

"It may seem harsh, Mr. Speaker, but when you are dealing with persons who do not fear conviction you need to let them know that just a charge can put them inside for 120 days. 

"Each new charge 120 days no bail!...If you have a precious conviction for a serious offense and you are even charged for another serious offense you will get no bail!"

The AG ended his presention with some relevant statistics, which he said speak for themselves. "I wish only to implore all Honourable Members present to put country first and to imagine, just imagine for one minute, the number of innocent lives that can be protected if these measures are allowed to enter our statute books...

"Honourable Members please, help us to bring some much needed peace to our is time that we send the right message to the criminal elements in this country. This message is simple, if you want to terrorize us, we will put you in jail and we will keep you there!

Persons Convicted and Charged for Similar Offences[2]
Persons Who Have 2 Convictions and 1 Similar Matter Pending
Persons Who have 1 Conviction and 1 Similar Matter Pending
Possession of a firearm or ammunition without licence
Possession of a firearm or ammunition without licence
(85% increase[3]!)
(672% increase!)
Larceny of a Motor Vehicle
Larceny of a Motor Vehicle
(237% increase!)
Possession of a Dangerous Drug for Trafficking
Possession of a Dangerous Drug for Trafficking
(562% increase!)

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai