Reasonable amount of time on remand? Bail is not granted willy-nilly Loop Barbados

The content originally appeared on: Barbados News

The slow-moving justice system in Barbados may be part of the problem which leads to accused persons being out on the streets despite having serious charges or a slew of charges on their rap sheets.

Stressing that bail is as of right according to the Barbados Constitution, Magistrate Deidre McKenna explained to Loop News that if all normal circumstances prevail then bail is granted, but there are instances when bail is denied.

She said for example if a person was charged with something two months ago and granted bail, “we [magistrates] can use our discretion” on whether to grant bail again or not. The sitting magistrate at District B Magistrate Court, Oistins, stressed that magistrates have “a wide discretion once you can justify the reason to give or revoke bail.”

With respect to refusing bail, she said one of the considerations is if a magistrate believes another offense would be committed while on bail, “then you could deny the application.” If there is a chance that they would re-offend, a magistrate can use that as a basis for denying bail.

A magistrate can also deny bail to protect the accused from others or from society, or to protect society from the accused. The accused also must have a surety and proof of address to be granted bail.

However, in light of recent news, where a person facing three murder charges from 2015 was out on bail, she said that a magistrate or judge will also consider the time spent in prison on remand. The accused who is the center of news this week did not go before Magistrate McKenna, therefore she did not speak on that matter, but spoke in general terms.

Magistrate McKenna took care not to list all circumstances for granting or denying bail as a security precaution, but she explained that sometimes the matter could be at the High Court stage as well. She said the matter could have passed the Magistrate’s Court and is just awaiting trial. “It could be a situation where you are still on remand and the trial still hasn’t started yet. The issue of bail may be an issue for a judge.

“[Therefore,] A magistrate or judge must consider what is a reasonable time spent on remand pending the hearing.” If a magistrate or judge considers the time spent on remand as “unreasonable” they may grant bail, she explained. And she insisted, it is not a one size fits all approach. The magistrate and or judge has to consider in the circumstances. “It has to be a situation where in the magistrate or judge’s opinion they exercise their discretion as to what is a reasonable time that you have spent on remand before granting bail pending a conclusion or pending trial.”