Dec 20, 2016
Former Speaker of the National Assembly and former People Progressive Party /Civic Executive
Ralph Ramkarran is of the view that legislation to make armed robbery a non-bailable offence is the simplest solution to decreasing such incidences.
Ramkarran noted that even though crime statistics reported by the Police show a decline, it is not significant enough to make an impact on public safety or fear.
He said that the fact is that with the number of armed home invasions and almost weekly, armed robberies of persons who have withdrawn money from one of the banks, very few people in Guyana go to bed at night or go to the bank with any confidence that either their homes will not be invaded or they will not be shot and robbed after leaving the bank.
“There is no doubt that the Crime Chief and his team, with the support and committed effort of the Commissioner and police administration, have done a great all round job and crime has declined. But violent crime is too extensive and persistent, and criminals too brazen and well organized for any peaceful Guyanese to feel anything but fear.”
However apart from the expansion of the Police Force and improvement of its quality by more training, Ramkarran says that short-term methods are necessary to keep criminals off the streets.
These include granting greater custodial power to Magistrates, which is limited.
“Alternatively, I have argued that legislation should be enacted to empower Magistrates to refer convicted defendants to the High Court for sentencing where the Magistrate feels that his or her custodial power is inadequate,” he added.
Ramkarran stressed that both the High Court and the Summary Court should implement refusing bail to repeat offenders. The former politician made reference to the case of Curtis Vasconcellas.
Vasconcellas was one of two suspects captured last Wednesday during a high speed chase by police after allegedly grabbing $2.5 million from a Hotel Tower accountant. A security guard was shot by one of the two suspects but the gun was not recovered.
The former Speaker said that as long he can remember there have been complaints about the release of defendants or accused persons on the streets after they are charged. Certainly, for an accused like Curtis Vasconcellas, he should never have been on the street to commit more robberies.
The Magistrate thought so and refused bail. The High Court Judge, no doubt acting on the principle that pre-trial liberty is granted to all but murder accused, and that under normal circumstances a person charged is entitled to pre-trial liberty, granted bail of $500,000.
This is a clear case where bail ought to have been far higher. Vasconcellas was charged with attempted murder. Minister Ramjattan, who has complained before, once again yesterday said that persons like Vasconcellas should not be granted bail. But these words have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.
The simplest solution is to legislate to make armed robbery an offence which is not bailable. The Government must act now. The public can wait no longer, Ramkarran stressed.