This matter of murder and bail
Murder is considered a serious and highly sensitive offence, and often society is shocked and outraged by the act and the circumstances surrounding it. Moreover, the families of the victims hurt and concerns rely on the criminal justice system to administer justice in a timely, efficient and effective manner.
In the final analysis, the family wants justice and closure for the killing of their loved one.
The notion of whether the accused is entitled to bail or should remain on remand until the hearing is always a touchy discourse that calls for balancing the individual’s rights and those of the public. Therefore, it is up to the discretion of the courts and the Director of Public Prosecution to grant bail to the accused, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case.
My concern for the granting of bail to murder accused examines the implications for the family, friends of the victim, the community, the accused, the police and the legal fraternity.
If an accused person is granted bail, they are at liberty or enjoy freedom until their next court hearing. On learning this, the victim’s family –– in respect of the alleged crime –– can become vindictive and hateful, and may seek revenge as a form of justice by taking matters into their own hands and by carrying out an attack on the person.
Some family members may also be fearful the accused may threaten or harm them.
Friends of the victim may also feel justified by making a contribution and joining in the attack. This position can highly likely undermine public peace and national security and, at large, disturb the public order of our society.
The community may also be fearful of the accused and therefore individual safety, public safety, and safety of the threat of violence should be the focus at all costs.
It is also interesting to note that the safety of the accused might be jeopardize upon his release and this can lead to unwanted violence and disorder in our society. Considering that the accused is granted bail, he/she may proceed to influence, threaten, bully or intimidate witnesses.
Too many murder accused released on bail can also communicate the wrong message to career criminals. They may believe that there is no value in life and that it is okay to take another life, when they are faced with a decision or ordeal.
It is also imperative to recognize that this too can lead to a lack of public confidence in the criminal justice system, because the public believes that this type of crime is severe and the accused should be punished in every regard and not be granted bail. People’s confidence in the criminal justice system is invaluable and if this is lacking they will be reluctant to report crimes, to present evidence in court, or to perform as jurors.
Furthermore, they will continue to have a blatant disregard for the police and their work.
–– RENNETTE M. DIMMOTT, Forensic psychologist and author.