Bail Bill should curb cases of reoffending
03 Dec 2023
There is a need to revisit the Penalty Code and review clause 10(2a), which deals with granting suspects bail, otherwise all efforts of dealing with the issue of bail will be in vain.
The clause states that ‘Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he or she is proved or has pleaded guilty.’
Contributing to the Bail Bill No. 19 of 2023 on Thursday, Palapye MP, Mr Onneetse Ramogapi said the clause was a major hindrance to all efforts as the penalty code was the most supreme law.
“There is clear evidence on the ground that most suspects on bail had a propensity to re-offend,” he said.
He also advised that caution should be exercised to ensure that bail denial was not abused, citing cases where people had made false accusations against others just to punish them.
“The issue of false accusation should also be harshly punishable, otherwise this Bill would be a double sword,” he said.
For his part, Member of Parliament for Mochudi West, Mr Mmusi Kgafela however, said it would not be so easy for Botswana to repeal legislature that preserved and protected the rights and lives of individuals, such as Section 10(2a) as they were part of international declarations that Botswana has entered into.
He also agreed that it was not easy for a judicial officer to deny or grant bail.
“Sometimes you grant bail and the suspect re-offends, and sometimes you deny them bail only to later emerge that they were innocent,” he said.
He also said the Bill did not change the existing laws much, but that it was just a codification of existing clauses into a single document for consideration by Parliament.
He also said the challenge with bail was not the law itself, but rather the administration part, such as the slow pace of prosecution.
He also cautioned against the practice of charging suspects before concluding investigations, saying that was the cause of delays in prosecuting as investigations would now be done while suspects were on remand.
“This means that if it later emerges that the suspect was innocent, they would have wrongly spent years behind bars,” he said.
Mr Kgafela also advised that the Bill should include the Customary Court Act as it gave Dikgosi criminal jurisdiction.
Gaborone Bonnington North legislator, Ms Annah Mokgethi appreciated the Ministry of Justice for finally being responsive to the outrage expressed by
Batswana in relation to how bail had been freely and indiscriminately granted to accused persons’ of heinous crimes.
She said the problem started with the courts being too liberal with the issue of bail, even when all evidence was before the magistrate.
She said the Bill was, however, well thought out, especially that it gave magistrates liberty to use their discretion even when the prosecution does not oppose bail.
He said it was also good that the amendment would allow the victim to participate during the trial, which he said would give them closure.
For his part, Mahalapye East legislator, Mr Yandani Boko also applauded the minister for the Bill, saying he did an exceptional job.
He, however, said it should be noted that the Bill did not seek to deny suspects their right to bail, rather only to make granting of bail hard. Ends
Source : BOPA
Author : Olekantse Sennamose
Location : GABORONE
Event : PARLIAMENT
Date : 03 Dec 2023