Attorney scoffs at proposed ‘no bail’ law
Noted attorney Christopher Townsend yesterday said the Government would be trampling upon human rights if Parliament passes a new law that would deny bail for persons charged with murder.
"The moment that you are going to say that 'No, you are not innocent', then you would have judged," Townsend told THE STAR yesterday. Under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in the constitution, any person awaiting trial and detained in custody is entitled bail unless sufficient evidence suggests otherwise.
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, during her contribution in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said the Government will soon propose the new law that will also deny bail to persons charged with illegal possession of a firearm. However, Townsend opined that with such a move, the former attorney general would completely destroy the foundation of the justice system.
"What if your son, your sister is charged for illegal possession of firearm erroneously, and then the act will come in and says 'No bail for you all'? What if the police decide to start charging politicians? What will then happen? No bail for you. You would have put this in place and you are guilty until proven innocent," he said. "I thought it was fake news when I first saw it until I had to confirm it before I attached any seriousness to it." Townsend said the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' would be turned on its head.
"So when they will take away people's bail who cuss bad word, the bail for simple larceny and malicious destruction of property? When will we say you are guilty until proven? And the practicality of that, enuh, is that our jails would be worse than they are now because they are already overcrowded," he said. "We have been putting people in cells that were built for five people and we are keeping 20 people inside there. It is only because we are not a litigious society why people don't sue the Government for overcrowding, enuh."
Townsend said that the proposed law is "playing on the fear of society who says that crime and violence is up".
"Why don't you go and find a solution for the crime? Why don't you give these young people opportunities? Alternatives? Open up and give them alternatives, try and create programmes on a wide scale. Why don't you spend the money that way?" he asked.