Second Reading of Bail (Amendment) Bill Tabled in the Senate In The Bahamas

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Nassau, The Bahamas — The second reading of the Bail (Amendment) Bill, 2024 was tabled in the Senate on Monday, February 12, 2024.  During his contribution, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator, the Hon. Ryan Pinder said this Bill is an important piece of legislation in the crime prevention strategy of the government.

“We have heard report after report of accused persons committing crimes while they are on bail, and in many instances just to be released back on bail after a small fine,” he said. “This is not acceptable, it is not appropriate and it is not going to happen any longer.  These stories have made people across this hemisphere question what is going on in The Bahamas, how could this be.  A regional leader recently asked whether Bahamian judges “live on Mars” as he questioned how courts could grant bail to people accused of murder.  Another regional leader observed “all through the region, the people who are causing the greatest problems are charged with two, three and four murders.  Something is fundamentally wrong.”

Mr. Pinder said that the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2024 is a short but very important piece of legislation.

He said that it  adds a new section 8A that addresses appeals to the Court of Appeal where the Supreme Court grants or refuses a person bail, or revokes or refuses to revoke bail.

“The new provision provides that the Judge shall remand the accused person into custody pending the filing of a Notice of Appeal – automatic remand so the accused isn’t out on bail while they wait on an appeal.  The provision also extends the time to file a Notice of Appeal from 2 days to 7 days, a procedural revision to assist the prosecution when they appeal the grant of bail to an accused,” said the Attorney General.

He said new section 9A is inserted and for the first time sets out detailed legislative guidance on the issuance of bail.  “Section 9A requires an accused granted bail to enter into a recognisance of bail which shall contain the conditions to which the grant of bail is subject.  The form of the recognizance of bail (or the agreement of bail) is attached to the Bill as a Schedule.  Section 9A(3) is an important section, it provides that “[t]he breach of any of the conditions contained in the recognisance of bail shall result in the bail being void.”

He added that this section underpins the principle of the government that the breach of bail terms that an accused has affirmatively agreed to comply with is a serious offense that mandates the accused’s agreement to bail being void.

He explained that Section 9A(5) provides three conditions that are mandated to be in a recognisance of bail. These conditions are that the accused person —
not commit any offence while on bail;
not interfere with witnesses;
duly appear at the time and place of trial or of an adjourned hearing and not depart the court without leave.

He also said that Section 12A  is replaced to provide that any person released on bail in criminal proceedings who breaches any conditions of bail, commits an offence.

“Recall that section 9A has three required conditions of bail, one being that the accused shall not commit an offence while on bail,” he said.  “If any conditions of bail are breached, such as removing an ankle monitor, breaking curfew, interfering with a witness, that is a breach of the conditions of bail and thus an offense and as an offense the reconnaissance of bail is automatically void.  Although the reconnaissance (or agreement by the accused) is void, Section 12A(2) provides that the bail itself is to be revoked by the Supreme Court.”

Section 12B, he noted, provides that an offense under 12A, or in other words, a violation of the terms of an accused’s bail, is punishable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

“There is no longer an option for a fine to be imposed for violating terms of bail, as mentioned earlier we view this as a serious offense and should be treated as one.  As there is no fine available, and the penalty for violation of terms of your bail is a prison term, an accused on being convicted of violating bail will be remanded to prison.

“We have included the offense of violating one’s conditions of bail in Part C of the First Schedule of the Bail Act.  The effect of this is to require that any application for bail for the offense of violating the terms of bail should be heard by the Supreme Court, not the Magistrate’s Court.

“We have set out a prescribed framework for when bail is breached and an accused is convicted of the offense, this is not the only option for bail being revoked.”

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