Possibilities: Prisoners Overseas & New Laws

April 6, 2010

445539_no_shooting Today new possible measures to combat the recent shooting surge were announced by Premier Dr Ewart Brown, who said that Cabinet spent hours debating after deciding they “cannot and will not sit by and not carry out their legislative duty“.

Premier Brown said as they “don’t want to make fancy laws that make them feel good” if they will not be effective, explaining plans have been made to correspond with community groups to discuss potential measures.

Premier Brown said the Government is working in tandem with the Bermuda Police and Government House to stem the crime wave. With a nod to our territorial status, Dr Brown said ”Let’s be real, there are certain decisions that only Government House can make“.

He mentioned three main points the Government will look into; transferring prisoners overseas, stronger police bail, as well as a possible change in laws.

The first measure the Premier mentioned, was possible overseas transfer of incarcerated persons saying that some say, whether fairly or unfairly “Bermuda prisons are less then prisons”. He said Minister Burch will be looking into the issue to see if that will assist Bermuda in our present predicament. Bermuda spends an average of approximately $80,000 per prisoner per year.

Premier Brown said that Attorney General will look into current laws and treatment of people before the courts on gun crimes, with the idea to make sure people arrested on gun crimes do not “recieve the flexibility other criminals might enjoy”. Dr Brown also stated the importance of prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law, and ensuring we are using our present laws to their full extent.

Attorney Kim Wilson spoke of looking into police bail. The police do not have the powers that Magistrates do, such as making someone surrender travel documents and instituting curfews, which the Attorney General said may be changed. She also mentioned looking into see if the laws are strong enough overall.

Dr Brown finished off the press conference by quoting civil rights activist and Princeton professor Cornell West, saying he is a “Prisoner of hope”.

The official release follows below:

After a six hour meeting of Cabinet much of which was devoted to the issue of gun crime, Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown; JP, MP, Premier of Bermuda and his Cabinet colleagues presented a portion of a long term strategy to address gun violence.

The Premier spoke of his “sense of shame” over the level of gun violence affecting Bermuda and reaffirmed his personal and Government’s determination to restore law and good order to our shores. Reconfirming his government’s total support for the Bermuda Police Service (BPS), Premier Brown praised their tireless efforts and while he could not share all of the information available to him said that he was optimistic that the public would soon see the evidence of the Police’s hard work.

To this end the Cabinet has agreed to the following action:

Attorney General Kim Wilson will look to enhance Police powers relating to bail, including but not limited to, granting the power to seize travel documents and place curfew and travel restrictions on those accused of gun crimes. The AG will further be looking to introduce tougher bail conditions for those accused of gun offenses.

Minister Col. David Burch will be examining the options available overseas for incarceration of offenders as well as exploring with Government House other options for assistance that fall under their remit.

The Premier further pledged to meet with Prison officials, church leaders, members of the judiciary and the business community and begin a full and open discussion on the way forward to ensure community by-in and to prevent the introduction of legislation that is neither community driven nor meets community expectations. The Premier said, “This process is critical to the success of our efforts. The entire community must unite to decrease the impact of this minority element in our society.” The Premier ended by commending those members of the public who have already come forward with vital information to assist the Police in arresting those accused of these crimes.

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