Bad on bail - Fresh concerns as news emerges that '3D's' alleged killer was on the road despite being charged with two crimes
News that the man charged with the killing of fashion designer Dexter '3D' Pottinger was out on bail for two crimes has renewed the debate about the ease with which suspected criminals are offered bail and the number of offences they commit while awaiting their day in court.
Minister of National Security Robert Montague has repeatedly expressed concern about the number of persons granted bail who are then linked to other serious crimes, but the data he provided has not been confirmed by the police.
The Police High Command is now collating the data as it tries to determine the number of persons charged and offered bail by the courts who are involved in other major crimes.
"I am aware that an audit is being done by the Criminal Investigation Branch, but I can't say exactly how far the audit is at this time," Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake told The Sunday Gleaner recently.
"I can confirm, however, that there have been instances where persons continue to commit crimes while on bail," added Blake.
He was supported by senior cops in the Kingston Eastern Police Division, where a bloody gang war is playing out in Rockfort and other areas.
"You have persons getting bail for more than one major crime. You will have a man charged with shooting and illegal possession of a firearm, and he will be reporting to the station on bail for three different cases," said one senior cop who asked that his name be withheld.
"Some persons in the Rockfort violence are themselves reporting to the station on other issues. It might not be for the same thing but for different crimes and in different areas," added the cop.
Deputy superintendent in charge of crime in the Kingston Eastern Division, Christopher Brown, told our news team that while he could not provide numbers, he was also aware of persons charged with one crime being rearrested by his team.
"We have credible information to suggest that there are a number of individuals who are on bail who sadly become victims of violence or become the perpetrators themselves," said Brown.
"There are other instances where we hear of persons committing crimes, but you may not have the evidence to arrest them for those crimes."
In the meantime, Senior Superintendent Howard Chambers, who heads the Kingston Western Police Division, said the problem is one he faces in the area under his command.
FACTORY FOR CRIMINALS
"Say, for instance, that for the month we have 20 arrests, then we will find that out of that 20, we have about three or four who are rearrested for other crimes," said Chambers, who described his division as the factory for criminals gangs.
"Once they are reporting to the station on condition of bail you will find that they are still involved in criminality but that they may not be so active.
"If it is a gang, then the leader might tell a youth to go do something (crime) because the other man is already reporting," added Chambers.
Since taking on the security portfolio last year, Montague has repeatedly pointed to the rules relating to bail as one of the factors impacting the country's crime numbers.
"Up to March this year, some 143 persons who were on bail were also charged with murder while they were on bail for another serious offence," Montague declared while addressing a function recently.
"So since bail is a right, we are going to enter into some discussions with the Ministry of Justice to ask that for some categories of crime the persons on bail should wear an electronic bracelet as a condition of bail. So we know where they are in case a crime is committed," added Montague, who has repeatedly expressed concern about the crimes committed by persons on bail.
Excerpts from The Bail Act:
Entitlement to bail
1. Subject to the provisions of this act, every person who is charged with an offence shall be entitled to be granted bail by a court, a justice of the peace or a police officer, as the case may require.
2. A person who is charged with an offence shall not be held in custody for longer than 24 hours without the question of bail being considered.
3. Subject to Section 4 (4), bail shall be granted to a defendant who is charged with an offence which is not punishable with imprisonment.
4. A person charged with murder, treason or treason felony may be granted bail only by a resident magistrate or a judge.
Circumstances in which bail may be denied:
Where the offence or one of the offences in relation to which the defendant is charged or convicted is punishable with imprisonment, bail may be denied to that defendant in the following circumstances:
The court, a justice of the peace or police officer is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that the defendant, if released on bail, would:
(i) fail to surrender to custody;
(ii) commit an offence while on bail; or
(iii) interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, whether in relation to himself or any other person.