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Senate: reform bills delayed again

One Bermuda Alliance senator Georgia Marshall

The Opposition have questioned whether the One Bermuda Alliance has stalled on controversial reforms to the Island’s criminal justice system.

However, OBA senator Georgia Marshall said the delay was testament to the Bermuda Government’s attention to the host of objections raised to the legislation.

The Disclosure and Criminal Reform Act and Criminal Jurisdiction and Procedure Act have repeatedly drawn fire from both the Opposition and the Bermuda Bar Council over constitutional issues since the two bills went before the House of Assembly.

The legislation is essential for an overhaul the Island’s “archaic” administration of criminal justice, according to Attorney-General Trevor Moniz.

However it was passed over for debate for the third time yesterday in the Upper House, at the request of One Bermuda Alliance senator Georgia Marshall — leaving Diallo Rabain, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, wondering whether it would be debated at all.

“I think the chances of it passing the Senate are very slim as it stands,” senator Rabain said. “Too many people have spoken out against it. The Government should withdraw the bill and go back to the drawing board; it’s going nowhere.”

Sen Rabain pointed out that the Senate will meet only two more times in the present session, adding: “With all the oppositions the bills are getting, it seems unlikely it would even survive if passed into law, with the legal challenges that can be brought against it. They need to admit they made a mistake.”

Sen Marshall acknowledged that “various entities” had made submissions to the Attorney-General on the reforms, adding: “We’ve been criticised for not being responsive and not listening. This is an instance where we have got it right. We have to be mindful of any objections that are being raised.”

She added: “Personally, concerning those objections — I don’t see it. I think people have a popular belief that the right to silence is the same as what we see on television, within the American context, which is not the case in Bermuda. There is no constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent. The constitution says we have a right to be informed when arrested of what our legitimate right to silence is.”

Asked if the reforms would be debated in the current Senate, Sen Marshall said: “I’m ready to proceed as soon as the Attorney-General is satisfied that we are ready to go. It’s on the order paper. To be honest, there is no immediate rush — we need to get this right. We need to fix our broken system.”