There has been mixed reaction over the recent announcement by Attorney General Vincent Byron concerning the amendment of the Bail and Firearms Act.
Callers to WINNFM’s Voices programme on Monday discussed the implications of the proposed changes to the Bail Act and Firearms Act to civilians in St. Kitts and Nevis.
One caller disagreed with the refusal of bail for those charged on certain capital offences, including possession of a firearm, because of the uncertain length of time people can be on remand.
“Why are you going to but somebody on remand and they aren’t even convicted yet? I mean, you can get remanded for a summary charge? That is just archaic to me because you are taking away somebody’s freedom, and [that person] is basically innocent because you didn’t try them yet and you have them sitting down [in jail] for four, five, six, seven years. We need to look into this remand thing because to me it sounds very unfair.”
Another caller added that the amendments are not helpful in the fight against crime, as the police fail to detect criminals.
“They are going to parliament with some bills, and, if I am not mistaken, [AG Vincent Byron] said some of them came from the police to increase the penalty [for certain capital offences]. The police are passing the buck to the parliament. We already have laws. They are the ones who are not detecting these major crimes. You could imagine increasing the laws from ten to twenty years and you still cannot prosecute anyone? What’s the difference? They need to go and do their work.”
However, other callers said that keeping those charged with certain capital offences in custody is necessary to ensure citizens’ safety.
The first caller said, “Sometimes you remand people because they want to escape. You try so hard to find them so that you can charge them; you cannot go and bail them again.”
Another caller said, “They are right to change the laws on that, because many people when they come out go and commit the same crimes.”
One caller said, “You had a former administration in there for twenty years that didn’t pay attention to the homicides. Now that [the current administration] is trying to address the concerns of the citizens of the federation about what is going on, some lawyers are crying out and saying that the [criminals or those arrested] should have their rights. All I have to say is that when you catch someone with a gun, someone that has done a criminal act, or something in relation to that, there should be no bail.”
According to Attorney General Vincent Byron, the amendments to the bail act and firearms act will remove the possibility of bail for persons charged with capital offences involving firearms, and increase the term of imprisonment for summary offences, or offences that can be heard by a magistrate rather than a judge, jury, or in the presence of the defendant, from a maximum of ten years to a sentence not exceeding twenty years.