Yet again, another government is attempting to extend the very piece of legislation which they labelled as unconstitutional and soundly rejected every time they sit in the House with a minority of seats.
The Miscellaneous Provisions (Anti-Gang and Bail) Bill 2016 is an insincere attempt by the PNM to fool the people of this country one more time. In my column entitled “Denying Bail is denying justice” published on January 18, 2015, I outlined why the automatic denial of bail is unconstitutional, and although then leader of the opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar knew this when opposing the amendments to deny bail for kidnapping during the parliamentary debate on January 18, 2006, her administration passed more oppressive amendments throughout their last stint as government (hopefully it will forever remain their last).
When in opposition, though, Persad-Bissessar said the “denial of bail, simpliciter, was a fundamental breach of a person’s rights under the Constitution... you are denying a fundamental right to freedom and to liberty. Liberty could only be taken away with due process... What is due process? It is the system of justice, the administration of justice. So you are denying a person who may very well be innocent; that person may never get bail.” Persad-Bissessar went further to discuss the very sunset clause used by her government and the possibility of rogue police officers wrongfully arresting innocent people before saying: “with this Bail (Amdt.) Bill, you could pick up anybody and throw them in jail to rot forever. That power is far too dangerous.” And as Persad-Bissessar neared the end of her contribution, she stated: “the Bail Act and Bail (Amdt.) Bill are cosmetic; public relations gimmick in an effort to make the government look good; to make people feel that they are serious in dealing with the justice system in the country; to make people believe that the government is serious about crime.” Notwithstanding, two months after winning the 2010 general election, Persad-Bissessar’s government introduced anti-gang and bail amendment legislation designed to deny bail to suspected gang members. At that time, the PNM opposition raised the same objections used by the UNC when in opposition.
In her contribution to this debate, recently disgraced former minister, Marlene McDonald presented two quotes. The first by respected Jamaican Queen’s Counsel, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, who said: “The law makes it very clear that bail is a constitutional right and any attempt to deprive a person taken into custody of the consideration of bail is unconstitutional and wrong and oppressive.” McDonald then quoted a legal officer attached to the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights to make the point that “…the Judiciary is the most appropriate entity to determine whether an accused individual should be granted bail.” Bail amendments were most eloquently opposed by our current Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley on January 10 2014, followed by the current Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi in the Senate on January 21, 2014 who had this to say: “This Bill infringes the separation of powers principle, because it provides a direction to the Judiciary that it should not grant bail at all, and have no consideration for that fact. This, at the very least, unduly infringes in the Judiciary’s perspective.
This law also pushes the remand population, judicially described as a hell hole situation, by hundreds of percent increases, and therefore what we are doing is we are breeding criminals.” In 2015, then senator Fitzgerald Hinds, who admitted to watching former attorney general, Keith Sobion, pilot the Bail Bill in 1994, and since then he himself participating in several debates on amendments noted: “Nothing the attorney general has said this morning will work right... if we do not fix a simple institution: our forensic analysis capacity.” He later added: “Let me tell you this, for those who do not know. A person is arrested, a person is charged. Because there is a presumption of innocence enshrined in our Constitution, and the need for due process enshrined in our Constitution, a person is entitled to bail.... It is rooted in our Constitution, our right to liberty, our right to freedom of movement.
When one is imprisoned, one loses those constitutional rights and, therefore, the lack of bail or the absence of bail, attacks, infringes this God-given constitutional right, these inalienable rights as established in Constitution.” After all of this, these same people are now fighting each other to have this unconstitutional legislation extended. Wake up people; we are dealing with two of the most dishonest pol i t i c a l i n s t i - tut ions in the hi s t or y of mank i n d .
( D e s k thumping).