The Privy Council today issued its judgement in the matter of The Attorney General -v- Akili Charles  UKPC 31, confirming the decision of the Court of Appeal that the automatic denial of bail is not reasonably justifiable in a society that has a proper respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.
This judgement vindicates the Opposition in terms of the stance it adopted in relation to the recent Bail (Amendment) Bill 2022.
In their attempt to camouflage their continued failure to address the crime situation, the PNM attempted to extend the life of a 2019 provision which placed restrictions on right to apply for bail, despite knowing that such a measure in relation to the offence of murder was struck down by the Court of Appeal and was being deliberated upon by the Privy Council.
As a responsible Opposition fully aware and cognizant of the implications that the Charles decision has on the evolving local jurisprudence, the Opposition urged the government to focus its crime fighting methods on practical and effective implementation of mechanisms to raise the detection rate and ensure that those persons who are arrested are brought to justice speedily and, if convicted, be subjected to the suitable punishment as determined by a Judge.
Instead, the PNM Government’s focus has been on pre-trial detention of persons who ought to enjoy the presumption of innocence to fool the population into thinking that trampling on the rights of persons will somehow keep them safe.
They have focused on cheap rhetoric and public relations, using the Akili Charles case to attack the Opposition based on Mr Charles’ legal team, all the while allowing crime to spiral out of control. Even the Prime Minister, being a geologist deprived of good legal advice for the past 7 years, made public statements while the matter was at the High Court, in a brazen attempt to put pressure on judicial officers: https://newsday.co.tt/2021/02/14/pm-no-bail-for-murder-must-remain-the-law/
The then Attorney General, lacking the intellectual capacity to appreciate the significant constitutional issues being canvassed before the Court made this case about the UNC, attacking members of the Opposition past and present for representing a client who was freed after spending 9 years in remand yard and never addressed his mind to the need to ensure that judicial officers, seized of all the facts of a case, make an informed decision as to whether or not bail should be granted.
Prior to the introduction of the 2022 bill, the Minister of National Security used the Office of the Commissioner of Police to drum up public support and exert pressure on the Opposition to support this Bill, but the Leader of the Opposition, being well versed in the law and understanding the issues before the Privy Council, was adamant that the Opposition could not support a legislative measure that the Court of Appeal ruled violated the separation of powers doctrine and was not reasonably justifiable.
The Opposition was ridiculed and even called “retarded”, questioned about its decision to not support a measure it previously supported in 2019 and accused of wanting crime to continue. The Attorney General even went so far as to say that the UNC misunderstood the Charles decision and made heavy weather of the fact that it was being appealed.
Today, the population can be comforted to know that the UNC’s strength and conviction prevented a bad law, which would have been struck down, from being passed.
The UNC has saved the taxpayers the burden of paying additional legal fees, damages and millions more in costs by understanding the learning coming out of ground-breaking cases and insisting that the laws passed in the Parliament are good laws which can withstand judicial scrutiny. Meanwhile the PNM’s bad laws and decisions which the Courts have to strike down, like the firing of Jwala Rambaran and the illegal detention of minor children will result in the Treasury paying for their incompetence.
The judgement handed down by the Privy Council is a significant development in the law of human rights and how the State must balance the objectives of a law against the fights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
Instead of accepting the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered by the Honourable Chief Justice in the Akili Charles matter and refocusing their crime fighting efforts, the Rowley led government wasted resources to lose another matter in the Privy Council, while CCTV cameras are not repaired, basic goods and services are not available to the officers at the TTPS, our use of forensic science to solve crime is hampered by a massive backlog at the Forensics Sciences Centre and the DPP’s Office is woefully understaffed.
The fact is that now, a persons accused of a crime, will have the ability to approach the court to request bail and the prosecution will have the opportunity to argue against it based on FACTS and CIRCUMSTANCES, not some sweeping dictate handed down by the Parliament.
This is a victory for democracy and the rule of law.
Jayanti R Lutchmedial