‘Gun Court’ mulled by new Security Minister

  • <B>Minister of National Security</B> Wayne Perinchief

    Minister of National Security Wayne Perinchief
    (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Bermuda could end up introducing a gun court with a panel of judges because jurors are appearing to show bias, according to National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief.

Mr Perinchief believes some jury members have been intimidated in their decision-making while others may have allowed themselves to be influenced by whether a defendant has a criminal record.

He says a panel of judges instead would ensure justice is served and police’s work gathering evidence against offenders would not go to waste.

“We may get to a point where we would have to use a panel of three judges ideally,” Mr Perinchief told The Royal Gazette.

“We have got evidence that juries can be either biased or coerced, intimidated.

“There’s an indication of some bias in a recent trial, where the youthfulness of the perpetrator and lack of previous convictions could have weighed in their favour, whereas the victim had a long history of personal convictions.

“Judges making the decision instead would take that out of the equation. It would only be for gang and gun matters.”

Mr Perinchief said he would first discuss the suggestion with Justice Minister Michael Scott.

However he warned he may face opposition from colleagues in the Progressive Labour Party; noting the PLP Government had removed special juries.

He continued: “But times have changed. We are now looking at a situation where the intimidation factor has been proven to be a deterrent to exercise justice.”

Yesterday, this newspaper reported how Mr Perinchief is hoping to introduce gang legislation and a buy-back guns programme, meaning people would get large rewards for handing in weapons.

During a wide-ranging interview, the new Minister, a former Assistant Police Commissioner, also spoke against decriminalisation of cannabis, something several individuals in the PLP have been calling for in recent months.

In 2006, in his spell as National Drugs Control Minister, Mr Perinchief had called for some marijuana offences to be downgraded so that small-scale first time users would be dealt with outside the courts and offered rehabilitation.

But he says this doesn’t mean he’s in favour of decriminalisation.

“Bermuda is a small jurisdiction and no matter what our local legislators may feel, for or against, the overwhelming influence of a larger jurisdiction, the US, will always drive that debate,” he said.

“It would be foolhardy of any small jurisdiction such as Bermuda, or any other Caribbean state or country, to pre-empt the position of the US on legislation, because of sanctions the US could bring and the fact that any jurisdiction who decriminalises marijuana can expect a flow of marijuana tourists.

“That to me would not be the desirable type of tourism.

“There is a practical consideration to be made, other than just the moral decision, and whether or not it’s harmful.

“The common sense approach says the larger jurisdiction is going to prevail.”

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Published Apr 12, 2011 at 9:06 am (Updated Apr 12, 2011 at 9:06 am)

‘Gun Court’ mulled by new Security Minister

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