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Minister Dames: Amendment to Witness Anonymity Act not An Attempt to Infringe on Rights of the Accused

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#Bahamas, April 23, 2018 – Nassau – During his seconding of the amendment to the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act, 2011, Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames said, on April 18, 2018, that it is not an attempt to infringe on the rights of the accused for a fair trial, but a means to ensure that the rights of witnesses are equally protected, which, he noted, is considered to be the foundation of successful criminal justice systems.

“The Criminal Justice System is one that operates under the tenets of fairness and balance,” Minister Dames said in the House of Assembly.

“Passing the amendment to this Bill will mark a significant stance for our Government and send a strong message that we are the champions of all Bahamians who stand up for justice and are concerned about the state of violence in our beloved country, and are prepared to risk everything for a return to the days when communities were free of incessant violence that threaten the safety, security, and the development of our peace-loving nation,” he added.

Minister Dames pointed out that the amendment to the substantive Act is to provide that the identity of witnesses in criminal proceedings may only be revealed in screening by a Magistrate, Magistrate Panel or Judge.  He added that Section 11, subsection (4) of the Act as it exists, allows exposure of an anonymous witness, as any member of the court has the right to screen the anonymous witness.

That loophole, he noted, had already resulted in Criminal Appeal to the Appellate Court by convicted persons claiming their right to confront witnesses was violated as the trial included anonymous witness testimony.

“Notwithstanding this, this loophole also created the issue of reprisals which is a serious threat to upright citizens and by extension the pursuit of justice,” Minister Dames said.

Since 2015 to date, the Anonymity Order has been applied in approximately 80 criminal cases according to police statistics, Minister Dames revealed.

“Out of this number, more than half of the cases, showed evidence of witness tampering,” he said.  “In 2016, a Senior Justice ordered an extension of the anonymity order of protection for a witness for the start of a murder trial, here allowing for an extension of that order after the Prosecutor argued that an eyewitness was hesitant about providing testimony if identity and location is not protected.”

Minister Dames stated that one of the most effective ways to intimidate a witness is to indirectly employ pressure by threatening well-being of a family member or loved one.

“It is therefore incumbent upon us in this honourable place to strengthen this Witness Anonymity legislation to protect not only the brave witnesses in these criminal cases, but also their family members and close friends,” he said.  “Police Investigators will tell you that witnesses feel more comfortable and are more open to assisting them with relevant information in connection to crimes when the anonymity order is in place.”

Further, he noted, the anonymity order protects not only witnesses, but also their family members from becoming targets prior to the start of the trial and after the trial.

Minister Dames said that he would be the first to admit that over the past decade crime has spiraled out of the control. However, he added, in recent times the country was beginning to see positive signs that the numbers were trending downward.

“Yet, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that this is the same peaceful nation that many of us knew as young children but has over the last decade taken a turn in the wrong direction,” he said.

“Let us not fool ourselves,” he cautioned.  “We now live in an era of intimidation, where criminals constantly apply fear tactics to discourage potential witnesses from executing their constitutional right of free speech.”

Minister Dames pointed out that from 2015 to 2017, the vast majority of homicides committed were attributed to gun violence and gang culture.

“In 2015, an estimated 79 percent of the murders were committed by firearms; in 2016 an estimated 84 percent; in 2017 an estimated 88 percent and — already for this year – an estimated 79 percent,” he said.

Moreover, he noted, for the same three-year period, there were 378 murders recorded where most of the victims and perpetrators fell between the ages of 18-35 years.

“We cannot stand by and allow the youth of this nation to behave in such a way that are above the law and will do whatever it takes to allow justice to take its full course, he added.  “When we say we are serious about what we are doing, we are.”

Minister Dames stated that The Bahamas was not alone in taking corrective measures to protect citizens of the country, who freely want to see justice served, and had enacted Witness Anonymity legislation to do just that.

The Commonwealth of Dominica, he stated, passed the Protection of Witnesses Act in 2013, and the United Kingdom passed the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act in 2008.  Minister Dames also said that the Government understood the “clear implications” of not amending the Bill.

“Criminals can grow in confidence, while law abiding citizens lose faith in the system,” he warned.

He mentioned how, during the mid to late 1990s in London, England, that became the case due to gun violence and witnesses fearing retaliations.

“It was not until special measures were put in place including total anonymity did witnesses come forward and detection of serious crime rocketed to over 85 percent,” he said.

“We cannot afford in this small nation for lawless individuals to bring our country to this, nor can we afford for our good citizens to lose confidence in the justice system,” Minister Dames said.  “This is why our Government is seeking to amend this Bill – to uphold the integrity of our system and to thwart witness intimidation.”

 

By: Eric Rose (BIS)

Photo Caption: Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames speaks, on April 18, 2018, during his seconding of the amendment to the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act, 2011, in the House of Assembly.

(BIS Photo/Eric Rose)

 

 

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Statement From Hon. Fred Mitchell, MP Minister of Foreign Affairs On the Passing of Colin Powell

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#TheBahamas, October 18, 2021 – I learned this morning  of the death of Colin Powell, the American general and diplomat. I worked with him as Foreign Minister in my first term, particularly on issues related to Haiti.

Yesterday in the CARICOM meeting, I recalled while discussing Haiti his role in the crisis of that time. I recall his life, times and work as generally thoughtful and considered. He was also an example of Caribbean success in America, one to emulate. He was the son of Jamaican parents. He was an example of success as a Black man in America. I am saddened by his passing.

On behalf of the Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis, the government and people of The Bahamas, and in my own behalf, I extend condolences to the United States of America and his family.

 

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Commonwealth of The Bahamas

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CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases

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October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.

The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).

During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.

The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit.  The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.

The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.

Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.

More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean

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World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  14 October, 2021.  In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes).  According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.

Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.

Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind.  Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience  blindness.

CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.

Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.

Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.

Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment.  CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need.  Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.

World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October.  The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.

The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’

Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:

  • Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
  • Spend time outside.  Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)[3]
  • Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
  • If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year

Your sight cannot be taken for granted.  It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!

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