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Still ‘right to remain silent’


Still ‘right to remain silent’

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BARBADIANS have been assured there’s no risk to an accused person’s long held right to silence under “official questioning” by the police.

That assurance came Friday from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in response to an Opposition claim the centuries old right was being removed through a series of amendments to the 1994 Evidence Act debated in the House of Assembly.

The amendments provide for use of sounding recordings and video identifications in criminal matters and include a new provision allowing a court or jury in the face of an accused’s silence to “draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper” – the so-called doctrine of adverse inference.

Stuart, a former Attorney General, insisted that whether or not the rules had been codified and put into this law, they would still have applied and any claim that the right was being ousted by the amendments was “a false claim”.

“The right to silence is protected both in the Bill and in the Constitution of Barbados,” he said. “Therefore, there is no risk attached to any accused person, or any suspect, in the circumstances of this Bill.

“These rules are severely intact, and therefore any allegation that the right to silence is being undermined in wholly erroneous.”

Stuart said he wanted to make the point clear so that at any point in future the relevant clause were to be interpreted by any court “they would be properly guided on the matter”.

The St Michael South MP described the amendments as “forward-looking”.

“Suspects in Barbados, who, prior to this amendment would not have had the protections now offered by it, when . . . it is proclaimed, will have the kind of protection that will put Barbados on that same level as other countries embarked as we are in the pursuit of the highest human rights practices,” he added.

Stuart said there were other areas of the criminal justice system that needed to be repaired and improved but it could not happen overnight. (AB)