Bahamas gov’t, police concern over failure of electronic monitoring of people on bail

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Bahamas Prime Minister Phillip Davis has confirmed that the company electronically monitoring people on bail is now under review amid reports that the system is failing.

“The discussion that was had with the Commissioner of Police [Clayton Fernander] was that we need to review the arrangements we have with that company and to determine whether or not they are fit for the purpose going forward,” Davis told a news conference.

He told reporters that it “is unacceptable that we rely on the monitoring bracelets, which are embraced for a specific purpose, and that is to monitor persons on bail to ensure that they do not commit further offences, to be able to track them, to ensure that they will be around for their trial.

“What we are hearing is that that is failing, and failure is not an option in our fight against crime. It is a complex issue and we need to have tools that are effective to enable us to dismantle the issues that impact crime,” he added.

Fernander said people on bail for serious crimes have been able to remove their ankle bracelets easily with a paper clip.

The ankle monitoring bracelet provides the location of people, some of whom are under curfews.

Fernander told reporters that the company is now adjusting the bracelet because police found that people being electronically monitored can remove their devices with a paper clip.

“One of the individuals who we arrested, we had him do a demo on how he got his monitoring device off, and we recorded it, and I had a meeting now with the company so that they could view that device now to strengthen that to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“But it would be amazing if you were to see how easily the individual was able to take that off with a paper clip, just with a paper clip,” the top cop added.

The company, Metro Security Solutions, has denied it is doing an ineffective job monitoring people on bail, with the company’s president, Orion Bethel, saying that the police do not always respond to notifications about people breaking bail conditions.

In recent days, the government has launched a major anti-crime initiative after the archipelago recorded an increase in murders since the start of the year.

During the news conference, Davis said criticisms that his government’s proposed amendments to the Bail Act will infringe on the rights of members of the judiciary to use their discretion are “misdirected” and “misconceived”.

The government has already tabled the amendments in the Parliament that it said would cause bail to be “automatically” revoked for accused criminals who commit a new offence.

According to the proposed amendments to the Bail Act, any person who is on bail for a criminal matter and breaches the conditions of pretrial release will be committing an offence.

The amendments would also remove a magistrate’s discretion to impose a fine once a person is convicted of a bail violation.

Such a conviction would instead be subject to a prison term of up to five years.

Davis has dismissed concerns raised by some defence lawyers saying “I’ve seen the chatter and heard some of the comments that the proposed amendments are infringing on the discretion of the court.

“It does not fetter the discretion of the courts nor does it impinge in any way on the constitutional rights of anyone,” he said.

“It was a considered amendment because we appreciate the concerns and the impact of persons being let on bail in circumstances where being admitted to bail could be a death sentence for that person which has been demonstrated by the results when you look at the profile of those persons who would have been murdered over the last year or two,” Davis added.

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