The Bill for an Act to Amend the Penal Code not only proposes a “reasoned response” in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice, but also sends a strong message to criminals and wrongdoers that they should expect punishment commensurate with their crimes, Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said Monday.
Mr. Turnquest said the Bill also assures criminals and wrongdoers that, in the interest of protecting people and community, restrictions will be placed upon their freedom in line with the decisions of the court.
Mr. Turnquest said that in the process of moving from Bill to law, steps will be taken to ensure that the most serious offenders such as murderers and perpetrators of other violent crimes are not likely to be considered for electronic monitoring while serving their sentences at Her Majesty’s Prison.
“This Bill provides for an offence of accessory after the fact to the commission of an offence. Where that offence is murder, a person found guilty will be liable to strict and severe punishment – imprisonment for life,” Mr. Turnquest said.
Mr. Turnquest said when persons are currently granted bail by the Supreme Court and one of the conditions of their bail is to report to the Police Station, the Station opens a register in which the persons sign when required.
He said when a person breaches the condition of his bail by not reporting to the Station, the information is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Attorney General’s Office will then inform the Supreme Court that granted the bail of breach and request for a warrant of arrest to be issued.
“The Police adhere to these conditions very closely and non compliance with a bail order is not tolerated. Electronic monitoring will use new technology to achieve what is required to monitor those persons on bail,” Mr. Turnquest added.
The Minister of National Security said the Bill for an Act to Amend the Penal Code, once passed by the House of Assembly and the Senate, will allow the courts of The Bahamas to impose electronic monitoring as a condition for bail. He said the 24-hour monitoring would likely reduce the possibility that persons on bail will abscond or commit further crimes.
“Further, it would increase the prospects that persons on bail will appear for trial. Communities are likely to be safer and fear of crime reduced as the movements of offenders could be tracked at all times.
“It would also be possible to monitor the movements of inmates (who are part of) the Prison Work Release schemes to ensure that they are where they should be when they should be.
“Importantly, utilizing electronic monitoring should serve to reduce The Bahamas’ significant prison population. A reduced population should allow for the better use of the time Prison Officers and would allow more focus to be given to prison rehabilitation and other programmes,” Mr. Turnquest added.
Mr. Turnquest said there are a number of persons incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Prison who have been charged with minor offences ranging from breaches of the Road Traffic Act, to causing damage, disorderly behaviour, fraud, obscene language, resisting arrest, throwing missiles and receiving.
He said electronic monitoring could potentially keep first time offenders and minor offenders out of the prison environment and consequently, reduce the chances of recidivism.
“Electronic monitoring would also allow less serious offenders to remain in their communities and on their jobs so that they could support their families,” Mr. Turnquest added.
Mr. Turnquest said The Bahamas is not alone in its consideration of the electronic monitoring alternative. He said countries around the world are increasingly incorporating electronic monitoring as an important tool for crime prevention and criminal justice.
“Countries as far-flung as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden and the Netherlands all have electronic monitoring within their range of sentencing options. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Colombia and Brazil have indicated that they are going to start programmes. Also, Jamaica launched an electronic monitoring pilot project just one month ago. Interestingly, Jamaica cites The Bahamas as an example to follow,” Mr. Turnquest said.
“Every indication is that countries putting rapid advances in technology to good use with electronic monitoring are satisfied with the flexibility the system provides and with the results,” Mr. Turnquest added.