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Cash bail laws coming—AG

Published: 
Friday, February 17, 2017

Government proposes to make it easier for over 1,000 remand inmates to be released on bail by cash and cheque deposits.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference, said the amendments proposed to the Bail Act would facilitate the reduction of the number of people on remand.

Some magistrates already allow a cash bail alternative for accused people on serious criminal charges.

The AG also detailed other legislation proposed to expedite the criminal justice system including proposals for plea bargaining and abolishing preliminary inquiries.

Al-Rawi said there were 2,242 people in remand and 1,000 were there for non-bailable offences (murder).

“But a lot of people don’t own property, so it’s impossible for some to get bail,” he said.

The usual procedure to obtain bail was through the use of a property deed.

Under the proposal, bail will be taken via cash payment or certified cheque via systems at the prison or courts daily except on Sundays, he said.

Another piece of legislation seeks to facilitate criminal plea bargaining discussion and agreement. Al-Rawi said it was similar to law in the US system where 95 per cent of matters do not go to court.

“The gap which has to be reduced is the length of time between charge and conviction,” he added.

The proposed local process will facilitate discussions on plea bargaining beginning even before a charge is laid, he added. It will allow for talks between those who are prosecuting, or want to, and other parties in a matter and will take into consideration victim’s views.

“The matter will then be taken to a judge who can say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on whether plea bargaining can be struck,” the AG said.

Another piece of legislation to reduce delays in the justice system will abolish preliminary inquiries completely since this process takes a long time. Al-Rawi said the Piarco Airport preliminary enquiry for instance has taken 17 years.

He proposes replacing preliminary enquires with allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if a matter should be heard summarily or indictably. Al-Rawi said the International Financial Organisation bill will also be presented to Parliament to facilitate borrowings from the Andean Bank.

(GA)