For our deeds, smile or frown the gods
Greek legend has it that the goddess Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus, threw a mist over Odysseus’ realm of Ithaca while he slept. And when Odysseus woke everything appeared strange –– the footpaths, bays, trees, rocks –– everything.
And Odysseus cried and groaned in dismay and said: “Whose country have I come to this time? Are they some brutal tribe of uncivilized savages, or a kindly and god-fearing people? Where shall I put all these goods of mine, and where on earth am I myself to go?”
There is a gathering mist over the Barbadian realm, and whether wide awake or emerging from deep slumber, whether prone to act as a Chimaera beast or be inclined to mimic the Phoenix, our citizens need now to hold those in authority accountable for the cloud under which they stand.
In the face of the silence of Harpocrates of Illaro Court and others best placed to deal with several issues creating the mist, Barbadians need to bombard Bay Street peacefully with questions and demand answers as to how the island’s lex lata can become its lex ferenda.
In some first world countries, where legislation allows to deal with both elected and appointed state officials, those presiding over seemingly unending farcical situations would by this stage have had their appointments rescinded or have had their responsibilities reassigned.
Those easily alarmed perhaps believe that the drug trade and gun-related violence in Barbados are our major crimes. But this is not necessarily so. Arguably, one of the major “crimes” in Barbados is that those who would create havoc in our island have too high a percentage chance of continuing their mayhem or going unpunished because systems put in place to deal with them have broken down to a laughable degree.
Magistrate Douglas Frederick not too long ago broke with tradition and questioned a decision made by a judge to give bail to a menace that he had initially remanded. One judge later referred to sections of the Bail Act as the justification for the decision made. Rather than be like the goddess Athena, patriot and protector of the realm, the High Court officer sought to circle the chariots.
Prophetically, we have recently seen police bulletins issued for at least one wanted man who is enjoying the luxury of receiving bail for murder. A mere decade ago such would have been unheard of and the Bail Act has not been amended in that time.
We do not believe Mr Frederick was attempting to rewrite or undermine the Bail Act, but echoing what most law-abiding Barbadians would appreciate –– better and greater discretion exercised by the Bench. It is a tenet –– written and unwritten –– that is as important as the black and white statutes that guide the legal fraternity.
Recent practices in such matters, especially for capital offences, seem not to give sufficient consideration to the victims and families of heinous crimes. To the best of our knowledge and from questions asked within law enforcement circles, nothing is ever put in place for the safeguard of prosecution witnesses when murder accused are sent back into our communities to await trial. If that is not a mockery of our judicial processes, then nothing is
Last week attorney-at-law Angella Mitchell-Gittens called on a magistrate to dismiss murder charges against two of her clients. Ironically, in our land of sloth, her matter was a relatively new case. Her clients had been charged for a July 2014 murder. But that she would ask for a dismissal after just a year in a country where similar cases have not started after more than five, spoke volumes to the new direction local justice has taken.
This is where Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith needs to leave a lasting legacy. Some would suggest his deck of cards has been dealt by Ocnus, the deity of frustration, hesitation and wasting time. But he must wrestle to the ground a situation where his subordinates are mismanaging the production of files to such an extent that almost weekly ancient cases are being dismissed for lack of prosecution.
Some have indicated that a modern promotion system that concentrated on academics rather than policing has created a situation where many with the responsibility to guide and manage their juniors’ production of case files, find no directions to do so in their bachelors and masters and need guidance themselves. If that is not the case, then someone needs to explain to Mr Griffith why it is taking in some instances upwards of one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-five days not to produce case files to the court.
And there must be consistency. The god Momus probably smiled last week at the dismissal of charges of theft and money laundering against lawyer Philip Nicholls after one adjournment too many. Though it is true that Nicholls was charged in 2013 and there are older cases still on the books awaiting a start, if the powers that be function as they should, the law would be as it ought to be and not as it is, and perhaps the gods might remove much of the mist that now makes Barbados appear strange.