|Jairam: Put victims first |
By SEAN DOUGLAS Sunday, December 8 2013
MINISTER of Lands, Jairam Seemungal, said trauma of a criminal attack leaves a victim’s life crumpled like a piece of paper crushed in the palm of the hand, as he urged MPs to legislate so as to put victims’ rights ahead of those of alleged perpetrators. The Lower House late-night last Friday debated the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2013 which denies bail to a suspect in a serious crime who had been convicted of a serious crime within the past ten years. However bail may be sought if no evidence is taken within 120 days of the suspect being brought to court.
Seemungal said while a person’s life may initially be akin to a clean, smooth, perfect sheet of white paper, when a criminal enters the scene, the victim’s life becomes spoilt just like a piece of paper being crumpled, which he demonstrated to all.
Hitting the preceding speech of an Opposition MP as “confusing”, Seemungal said, “I have heard no one speak of the victims of crime who suffer the most when an offence occurs.” Seemungal said a victim of crime must often go seek psychiatric treatment. A crime-victim’s home then often becomes his prison, said the minister, lamenting that the Opposition ignored this and only focused on the suffering of jail inmates. “I have heard of constituents unable to sleep at night,” said the La Horquetta/Talparo MP, “And some have to keep vigil because of the crimes that occurred in their homes.”
Seemungal said it was unfair for victims to have to suffer such trauma, especially in the case of crimes committed by persons who had already been convicted of committing similar crimes before.
He said, “These are not ordinary crimes like shoplifting, but harsh crimes and heinous crimes that affect individuals dramatically and change their lives forever.”
He read the list of 31 serious offences under the new “one-strike and you’re out” policy. These include gun-possession, gang-membership, extortion, manslaughter, robbery, serious assault, drug-trafficking, rape, kidnapping, perverting the course of justice, threatening to publish with intent to extort, and any offence whose penalty is ten years or more. Seemungal read out reports from sections of the British press that had blamed persons on bail for committing many crimes. These newspapers had alleged that one in seven murders in the UK are done by persons on bail for other offences, who allegedly also commit two rapes every week and one crime every ten minutes, he said. Last year 56 murders, or more than one murder per week, were committed by persons out of jail on bail, he said, quoting certain British newspapers.
“If they’d been remanded in custody, the victims’ lives may have been saved,” he concluded, saying that the evidence all over suggests that persons who are convicted of crimes and then released on bail, have committed serious crimes. Earlier Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox rejected the amendment as allegedly “draconian and unconstitutional”. She bemoaned that the cost of maintaining an inmate in jail is $435 per day, or $1.6 million per year. The cost of maintaining the Remand Yard population is almost $1 million per day, she said.