Rule of law should guarantee the presumption of innocence
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Police have advised that suspects being arraigned will no longer be paraded out in public view, a practice commonly known as the “Bank Lane shuffle”.
The historic move comes after years of calls from legal professionals to end the discriminatory practice.
Police press liaison Audley Peters advised members of the media yesterday of the new “safety protocol” that would no longer allow the media to take photos/video footage of those suspects being moved from the South Street Police Station across the courtyard and into the front door of the court.
Commissioner of Police (COP) Paul Rolle signaled the shift in policy earlier this year.
Yesterday, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe said while the directive did not come from him the move is something he advocated for heavily in his private practice as a defense attorney.
“It has always been my view that it is not right and proper to display people,” he said.
Munroe explained that the Magistrate’s Court building was designed with a cell block and corridors where officers could drive prisoners into the court and they are not exposed to views.
“I trust that there will be no more shackling of persons,” he continued.
“The law as I understand it is you use just as much restraint as is necessary for the circumstance.
“If you have a white-collar criminal who is not likely to escape there is no need to shackle or sometimes even handcuff them.”
Munroe pointed to his private work as a defense counsel where he used the “Bank Lane Shuffle” against the identification of his client because that person would have been on television and in the newspaper while going to court.
He also pointed to the arrest of popular Bahamian social media personality Alesha “Car Wash” McNeil last June on charges of child abuse.
“There was absolutely no danger that she could run away from the police and if she did clearly she couldn’t get very far before they could retake her but she was handcuffed and that may have been unnecessary,” Munroe said.
“If that is stopped, I’m very happy to see police anticipate what would be some of my concerns.”
In May, Commissioner of Police (COP) Paul Rolle said he intended to make recommendations to put an end to people being handcuffed, shackled, and paraded as they are being escorted to court for arraignments.
While appearing as a guest on ILTV’s Beyond the Headlines with host Clint Watson, Rolle was asked about the practice that usually presents an image of guilt, even though it is up to the discretion of the police.
He explained that the matter has been a longstanding debate within the police force, since his early days as an officer and noted that, after discussions with his senior team, it was something he would have liked to see changed.
Legal professionals have also continually called to put an end to the Bank Lane shuffle.
Attorney Bjorn Ferguson called the decision “very sensible”, given that the rule of law should guarantee the presumption of innocence of a suspect.
He also called the continuation of the practice “strange”, given the way the Magistrate’s Court was built
“It was strange that they continued to do that notwithstanding the construction of the facility to discontinue that practice.”