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Bahamas: Police Chief Criticizes Criminal Justice System

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Commissioner of Police Paul Farquharson said he has a “big problem with the way the criminal justice system operates in this country”.

By Candia Dames


Nassau, Bahamas

24 October 2005







Raising concerns that have been highlighted by senior police officials in the past, Commissioner of Police Paul Farquharson said he has a “big problem with the way the criminal justice system operates in this country”.


He conceded that in some ways the courts are working against the police.


"I believe it could be much more effective, but we all have to be on the same page," said Mr. Farquharson, who was the special guest on the radio Love 97 programme "Jones and Company", which aired on Sunday.


"We look at persons who have been in the system and there are many of those who continue to be involved in a life of crime. Unfortunately, some of these persons are persons who we have caught over and again and they get smarter and smarter every day, but most of them – or quite a few of them – are on bail for several other offences."


The commissioner added, "That is the price of democracy, I’m afraid.


Everybody has rights. Therefore, if you’re tried with an offence and you go down to the courts after a certain period if you’re not tried, I think the system demands that [you are] given bail. Unfortunately, we see a number of those persons involving themselves in very serious crimes, particularly armed robberies and in some cases homicides."


Mr. Farquharson said the criminal justice system needs an overhaul.


Asked why it’s taking so long for needed reforms to take place, the police commissioner said this is perhaps a question that needs to be answered by other authorities.


He said it is evident that there needs to be more judges appointed to try cases.


Mr. Farquharson also said there is an "epidemic of criminality" in the region that is impacting The Bahamas, but he said the crime problem in this country is not as enormous as the dilemma in countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.


"The big effects of this is the criminal deportee, because unlike anything else in many years- these criminals continue to pour back into these countries by the hundreds," he said.


The commissioner said the police are employing new strategies "to keep the violent criminals at bay", but he stressed that the force cannot do it alone, but needs stronger support from the entire community.


"The entire community must come onboard with the police in order to deal with crime holistically," said Mr. Farquharson, who added that some homes have failed miserably in raising children to be law-abiding citizens.


He said many homes are making it more difficult for the police to do their jobs.


"The home is deteriorating badly," the police commissioner said.


But he pointed to the success of the Urban Renewal Programme, and praised the church for coming on board in helping to tackle crime and other social ills in the country.


Mr. Farquharson also spoke of the technological and scientific challenges the police face in fighting crime.


"The courts are demanding more and more [that we don’t] rely only on a confession or a witness statement," he noted. "You must have scientific evidence in order to convict a person."


Mr. Farquharson pointed out that local police do not yet have the capability to analyze DNA evidence, although the force has trained personnel.


He said it is extremely expensive as each test costs $3,000, but through a new contract with a US firm, the police expect to be able to spend $1,000 on each test.


Mr. Farquharson said this $1,000 is "very reasonable".


"We’re looking at a number of cases, and very soon we hope that the resources would be made available in order to run our tests," he said.


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