Bail defence

Judge explains release of murder accused

A High Court judge has sought to set the record straight on the granting of bail for persons accused of capital offences.

Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius Tuesday explained in the No.5 Supreme Court that accused persons held on remand pending pretrial must be tried within a reasonable period.

Madame Justice Jacqueline Cornelius

She pointed to the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice, which states that those alleged of committing such crimes could not be held for an “unreasonable period”.

There was much public outrage this year after two men facing murder charges were freed on bail.

Sean Watson, a draughtsman of Ballantyne, Christ Church was released on bail in April, four years after he was charged with the murder of his estranged wife Nicole Harrison-Watson; and Andre Lord Evil Jackman of Stroud Bay, Crab Hill, St Lucy was released on bail in May. Jackman is accused of the April 2014 murder of Charly Dume who died after being shot at a bar in Nelson Street, The City.

Cornelius, who earlier this month extended Lord Evil’s curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and also suspended the curfew for one weekend to facilitate his pending nuptials, explained that those released were offered bail for breach of their constitutional right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.

She added that the State had “to balance the right of every accused person to a fair trial . . . with the protection of the community . . . and to ensure that respect for the rule of law and public confidence in the rule of law is upheld”.

Cornelius told those in attendance the situation was as a direct result of a backlog of murder cases in the judicial system.

“It is the most serious offence and the public has a very strong feelings that men and women charged with murder should as much as possible be brought to trial as quickly as possible,” she said.

The judge also revealed that her court had been given an “insurmountable task” of a docket of over 400 cases to deal with between September 2015 and 2016.

This caseload, she said, was tackled by her staff, prosecutors, criminal attorneys and police and prison officers through a “clustered” approach, which resulted in the “more serious cases”, particularly capital matters, being heard.

To this end, she revealed that five murder cases were adjudicated and another 15 guilty pleas were accepted among over 70 of the 400 cases that were completed.

She also cited a lack of resources as a reason for the delay in delivering timely justice in cases, saying there were accused persons on remand who had indicated a desire to plead guilty but a lack of resources in the typing and administration of their depositions hindered progress.

The Registrar was looking at situation, she said, but there were still issues surrounding delays that remained a concern.

Cornelius added that changes needed to be made to the system, including the establishment of a specialized sexual offences court and sentencing guidelines for the judiciary.

The pretrial system, she said, also needed serious work.

12 Responses to Bail defence

  1. Frank Fowler
    Frank Fowler December 20, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    You judges need to do your freaking jobs and stop wasting time

  2. Elvis Goodman
    Elvis Goodman December 20, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    In all fairness to the judge a lot of the backlog in the courts could be cleared up if we moved towards a program of having court appointed mediators deal with the minor cases….but lawyers are against this because they see it as taking money away from them….mediators are paid a stipulated fee by the people involved in the dispute….in my view a lot of things in the nation could work better but mental mindsets have to change

    • MVP December 21, 2016 at 7:01 am

      There is Court annexed mediation and lawyers are still involved.

  3. Adrian Reid
    Adrian Reid December 20, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Wow you guys have a lot of work to ,ever considered working at night ?or weekends?

  4. Jai Khan
    Jai Khan December 21, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Trinidad considers a murder charge to be non-bailable. And this may have to be a consideration here if those on bail repeat the offence or engage in criminal activity.

  5. Hal Austin December 21, 2016 at 3:12 am

    We are not Trinidad with its large murderous population. But it is interesting to see a senior judge discussing the thinking behind the granting of bail.
    This view must filter down to the authoritarian magistrates, who try over 95 per cent of cases, and he withdrawal of bail as a way to build their reputations.
    We now want the bar association, the police association and the silent attorney general to join the debate.
    I suggest training in sentencing theory and emotional intelligence for the bench. Apart from the economics of the penal system, the accused are also human beings.

  6. Peter December 21, 2016 at 8:26 am

    The learned Madame Justice has made her point which is to the point. Opposing arguments are just as strong. I think however in situations like these, the entire panel of judges should meet, present their points, make a recommendation to both the Attorney General and the Chief Justice. A firm decision can be taken and to me and all I hope, will be fair and just.

  7. Aneta December 21, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I does got to laugh. Aha. I does got to laugh. What makes this reasoning so silly is that these thugs reenter society and commit more crime. We need to change our stupid laws and put people in places that function. The attorney general is a waste of time. Our court system is a joke.

  8. Mack December 21, 2016 at 9:20 am

    How come that the most learned in the land can’t figure out a solution to this problem. How come every time I open my paper I see all these new lawyers entering the profession. Work ethic has a lot to do with this problem. These young professionals like to be at work at ten am and leave at two pm and that is a days work. The rest of the day is for golf or other forms of recreation. Ask any of the old judges, they used to work until the calinder’s were cleared, they were in charge of their courts.
    Lawyers had to comply with the court schedule.

  9. Leroy December 21, 2016 at 9:29 am

    1. Do away with preliminary hearings
    2. Judges its your court do your job, stop letting lawyers and police delay and stall, have penalties for loss of evidence and corruption.

  10. Carson C Cadogan December 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    the judge is absolutely correct.

    I support her 100%.

  11. North Point December 21, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Plea bargain, that’s the buzz word, this can work for cases over 10 years in the system. the COURTS must stop allowing the lawyers to CLOG the system with adjournments after adjournments just because they have not received all of their $$$ from the accused.


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