Six remand prisoners have had their bail altered to secure their freedom as part of Government’s initiative to reduce the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six were among a group of 13 remand prisoners, whose bail reconsideration hearings took place electronically before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds on Friday.

The applications for six other prisoners were adjourned to early next week to allow the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to provide additional information to the court, which is needed to complete the individual assessments.

One unsuitable application was denied and dismissed after being considered by Ramsumair-Hinds.

The group was the first of several identified as being eligible under the scheme, through a lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General, to have the applications come up for hearing.

Other groups are expected to have their hearings in the next coming weeks.

The Public Defenders’ Office led by Chief Public Defender Hasine Sheik assisted by legal officers from the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority are representing 137 of the proposed candidates.

Several of the identified prisoners, who have been able to hire criminal defence attorneys, have applied for their variation separately and have already successfully secured their releases.

The measure mainly affects adults and children, who have been convicted of summary and indictable offences and were sentenced to under a year in prison or have less than a year remaining on a higher sentence. People sentenced for failing to pay child maintenance are also covered.

People who have not been convicted of such offences, but who were remanded as they were unable to access the bail initially set for them, are also included and may qualify for bail variation.

It does not apply to people convicted of or on remand for a series of scheduled offences, which carry sentences of over ten years in prison.

Such offences include those under the Anti-Gang Act, Offences Against the Person Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act, the Kidnapping Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, Trafficking in Persons Act and the Firearms Act.

The cases of people who are convicted are to be considered by the Mercy Committee, which will then recommend Presidential pardons, under Sections 87 and 89 of the Constitution.

Reporter: Derek Achong