Friday 18 September, 2020

Give speedy attention to all bail applications

Let the speediness afforded to acting Police Superintendent John Mark Annel and his attorneys be extended to all persons in similar circumstances within the local judicial system.

Hours after Annel was remanded by Magistrate Graveney Bannister in District A Magistrates Court on Monday, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, granted him bail in the High Court following an urgent application for bail filed by Annel’s lawyers, Sir Richard Cheltenham and Shelly Seecharan.

Annel has been charged with one count of unlawful possession of ammunition and five counts of Misconduct and Misuse of Public Trust.

Now both the average Barbadian and some attorneys-at-law are calling for every case to be treated with similar urgency.

Speaking to Loop, Attorney-at-law Mohia Ma’at said, “That was a perfect application and you wish that every application would be treated the same way."

“Ordinarily, even if a person is given an opportunity to have an urgent application and the application is heard and the bail is granted, there are still the other procedures in terms of the sureties and being interviewed and okayed first by the judge and then by the Registration Department. Documentation would still have to be forwarded to the Registration department and approved and such like and that was done obviously in one-go," he outlined.

“So you would hope that such an application would act as a catalyst for other persons out there in the Registration Department to treat similar and other applications in like fashion.”

Ma’at emphasised that he was not in anyway crying down the fact that the police superintendent's application was done in the manner in which it was done, but he stressed, “You would just hope that other persons who made similar applications could have that level of interest being paid to their applications.”

Hammering home his plea, he said, “In a perfect world that is how it should be done. There are many persons out there in prison who are waiting for a hearing before the court. I myself have an application before the court with a guy that was held with one bullet and up to now I have not received a date for him to get a hearing.”

Sharing a similar sentiment was fellow attorney, Angela Mitchell-Gittens, who too said, “It would be wonderful if all matters could be dealt with expeditiously. However, given the resources with which we operate that’s not possible."

"But what l would like in our current system is for the administrative arm in this case - the Registry, to move with the same level of expedition to ensure that all persons who are granted bail are released as quickly as possible and not as obtains now, where some are released the same day or night and others wait in prison for weeks while the surety’s documents are being reviewed in the Registry," she added.

Dispelling the notion that an urgent application is only available to certain persons in society, both attorneys asserted that it is a procedure available to everyone. They said that this situation is not a case of 'two Barbadoses' as some people are saying.

Mitchell-Gittens said, “The attorney makes an application for the matter to be deemed urgent. The Chief Justice then reviews the documents and decides if it’s urgent or not. If it’s deemed urgent, it’s then sent to be heard immediately by a judge. It’s not unprecedented and urgent applications are heard every day. It's not just restricted to criminal matters either; it’s used for example to prevent the deportation of non-nationals and to prevent parents from leaving the jurisdiction with a child without the consent of the other parent.”

In terms of bail matters, she also posited, “Sometimes the person charged might have a serious health condition that cannot be adequately dealt with by the prison so on that basis or any other urgent basis an application can be made to treat the matter as urgent.”

Neither attorney purported to know what was in the affidavit submitted on behalf of the Police Sergeant by his representation.

And in regard to the application being a costly one which prohibits some applicants from accessing this opportunity, both attorneys dispelled that notion as well.

Mitchell-Gittens said, “l don’t think cost is the issue. The issue would be is it urgent? Can the Chief Justice be convinced that this matter is urgent and should it be heard today? I cannot speak for other attorneys but there is no additional cost. It’s a part of the application.”

Ma’at agreed, “It is not a matter of cost. It’s a matter of the Registration Department and a judge being available to do the application.”

Both attorneys explained that in fact every week there is a duty judge who has responsibility for urgent matters and should be available 24 hours a day to hear such matters.

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