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Criminal Bar slams Govt crime plan

Pitman's death warrant 'pure politics'
Criminal Bar slams Govt crime plan

By Theron Boodan,

The Criminal Bar Association yesterday slammed Government’s crime plan, as announced recently in Parliament by Attorney General John Jeremie, and called the proposed hanging of Lester Pitman, "pure politics." Speaking at a press conference yesterday, association president Desmond Allum SC analysed Jeremie's crime plan and took note of its many pitfalls. Attorney Gregory Delzin, a committee member of the association who was also at the conference, described the reading of the death warrant to Pitman as being purely political with absolutely no basis for its reading in procedure, or in law. Also at the conference was attorney Ian Stuart Brook. The association is clearly against the reintroduction of hanging, and Allum said, "We agree that there is an abundance of material that clearly establishes that capital punishment does not deter persons from crime."

The association also stated that it was very worried about the manner in which the Government sought to read the death warrant to Pitman, who still has an appeal pending. In the circumstances, Allum and Delzin said it was a cynical approach to the law by Government. Allum said Government's attempt to hang Pitman was totally misguided, although it appears to have a lot of public support. However, he said, an enlightened government must act responsibly. He said, " As a forward thinking society we must be ever vigilant that it has long been established by academics that a society that relies on violence to solve its problems gives rise to a cycle of violence, which no doubt has manifested itself in our society to the extent that we as a society believe that the only way to solve social ills that give rise to crime is to use violence as part of the solution.

"The reintroduction of hanging and infliction of corporal punishment are retrograde steps, and is a sad reflection of the maturity of our society." Allum also noted, "While we are no doubt pleased to see positive legislative measures being introduced to speed up the trial process, we have to ensure that the measures being introduced do not derogate from well established safeguards and mechanisms that have long existed to protect individual rights." On the question of bail, the association takes the view that there is need for an overhaul of the bail system so as to make it more equitable. Allum also noted that the over-reliance on land as security when taking bail had given rise to a prosperous trade for illegal professional bailors who extract ten percent of the sum fixed for bail from the families of those in custody.

The association felt that as a matter of principle, the mandatory denial of bail to persons against whom allegations are made, but not convicted, is a very serious matter. He agreed that the answers to some of these problems lie in the fast-tracking of some serious cases so that the courts could move swiftly to determine the matter. However, in order to speed up the trial process, the courts and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system need adequate resources.

The police need specialist training and all the necessary human and physical resources; and the courts need to be well staffed with at least real time recording systems so that judges and magistrates do not have to spend weeks presiding over a trial and taking notes in long-hand. Allum welcomed the passing of the DNA laws, but noted that if it had been completed sooner it may have helped in the Akiel Chambers case. Speaking about the Forensic Science Centre, he said it makes no sense to have facilities available with insufficient staff to properly operate the institutions. The association also welcomed the move to do away with a preliminary inquiry in some cases.

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Criminal Bar slams Govt crime plan
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