Defence attorney Larry Williams says he does not believe the Bail Amendment Bill will fix the ills in the judicial system.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Williams said 70 per cent of cases that are dismissed are the fault of police officers who take years to bring their evidence to the court.
His comment comes on the heels on much public criticism over the failure to proclaim the Bail Amendment Bill in the wake of Andrea Bharatt’s kidnapping and murder. One of the suspects in Bharatt’s case has 45 pending matters before the court and was out on bail when Bharatt was kidnapped.
The Bill collapsed in Parliament in 2020 when the Opposition bench withheld their support- citing concerns with certain clauses. Attorney General Faris Al Rawi has said numerous times the public needs to put pressure on the Opposition to support the bill- which keeps people accused of the illegal possession of guns and ammunition, and violent sexual assaults behind bars for 120 days without bail.
Williams, who has been a defence attorney for the past 20 years, said on Thursday he represented a client whose marijuana trafficking charge was dismissed because the police officer who arrested his client failed to show up in court.
Williams explained that before a magistrate can grant bail, they would examine the criminal record of the accused, focusing closely on convictions and pending matters.
“If you have a bailable offence, then the presumption is really to give you bail, unless there is a reason to keep you inside, the whole purpose of bail is not to punish you but to ensure that you appear for trial so if you can show that you can appear for trial, then you should get bail because you are presumed innocent,” Williams said.
Williams said most cases in the judicial system were delayed because police officers take too long to be ready with their evidence.
“In 90 per cent of cases, the police are the reason for the holdup, because the defence attorney cannot do anything until the police are ready…the police file is never completed. Magistrates bend backwards to please the police and the State because they should, but the police get three, four, five, even ten strikes before they are out.”
He said defence attorneys were often left holding the bag when cases are dragged out for years before the court.
“If you arrest a man, a year and a half go by and you arrest him for possession of ammunition, and you don’t give him bail, a year and a half later the police still don’t have their act together, they still don’t have the statements, you have to give the man bail at some point in time, he is presumed innocent and Magistrates don’t dismiss cases willy nilly, they bend backwards to see that justice is done on both sides.”
He said 70 per cent of “wins” on an attorney’s record often comes from cases that were dismissed for police inaction.
He does not believe the Bail Amendment Bill is the answer. Instead, Williams said police need to get their act together so cases can be completed much faster than the current rate.
“We need immediate accountability, if you do something wrong you should be made to pay immediately, justice delayed is justice denied. So the bail amendment bill… you could lock up people longer, keep them inside for longer but at the end of the day, the police are still not getting the file together on time,” Williams said.