Defendant’s right to bail, amendments to conditions of bail in long-awaited Bail Bill

The Ministry of Legal Affairs’ long-awaited Bail Bill was on Monday passed in the National Assembly, and will see the regulation of the granting of bail across the country.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, said the bill has been anticipated for a long time since other countries within the region already have the legislation in place.

“Some feel that bail is too rigidly granted, and others argue that it is too capriciously granted, and the granting of bail is not consistent. Most countries in the world have moved in the direction of putting a statutory code in place to govern the grant of bail,” he explained.

He noted that while usually, bail is to be determined by the tribunal before which a charge is pending, the new law will allow police officers to grant bail as well, in the absence of a warrant for arrest.

The AG added that the drafting of the bail bill began in 2015, and has gone through several revisions since then.

The bill addresses primarily a defendant’s right to bail, amendments to the conditions of bail, bail procedures and appeals, and the right of a court of law to refuse bail under special circumstances.

It also reduces confinement time from the current 72 to just 24 hours, while allowing for necessary extensions of time under reasonable suspicion that a suspect has committed a crime.

The Attorney General assured that the bill has received the highest possible consultation, foreign consultation included, to ensure that it is thorough and allows for no misinterpretation or abuse of the law.

“It is a consensual product of both the legal fraternity, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, the practicing Bar, and the Judiciary to aid stakeholders in administering a fine and enforcing this law,” he said.

Particular focus is placed on ensuring the rights of the suspect are respected, and that he or she is presumed innocent until proven or has pleaded guilty.

The importance of victim consideration is also highlighted, especially in informing them when a decision has been made to release the suspect on bail.

The extensive Bail Bill will provide bail reform in Guyana, which is a key component in remedying the overcrowding of prisons, as well as the unnecessary imprisonment of persons who have not been found guilty before a court of law.

It provides for the court to hear and determine bail applications without undue delay, and also sets out requirements for the legal system to fulfill in its granting or revoking of bail, and outlines clear circumstances under which bail may be refused.

The Minister of Legal Affairs may also make any necessary regulations to execute the provisions of the act.