Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva says the system whereby offenders are given pre-arranged lesser charges/sentences for helping police could “change the dynamics” which often see defendants stonewall detectives. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva says the system whereby offenders are given pre-arranged lesser charges/sentences for helping police could “change the dynamics” which often see defendants stonewall detectives. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
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US-style plea-bargains should be explored in Bermuda to help tackle gun crime, according to the Police Commissioner.

Michael DeSilva says the system whereby offenders are given pre-arranged lesser charges/sentences for helping police could “change the dynamics” which often see defendants stonewall detectives.

And it might provide authorities with much-needed leverage in the fight to curb gang violence.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun yesterday, Mr DeSilva, pictured above, said the island’s gang problem currently revolves around perceived signs of disrespect between rivals and the need to retaliate after an initial strike.

And he said that despite an overall downturn in gun crime in the last year, there remained an undercurrent of gang activity that still threatens to boil over. 

Mr DeSilva added: “I have advocated that it is a good idea to look at the US plea bargain system.

“What this has is a more formal system to negotiate a deal between the offender and law enforcement. Before we even consider this we have got to have the public appetite for the fact that offenders will not get the same sentence they would have got otherwise.

“The philosophy is based around the greater good. The current legislation we have provides for mandatory sentences. There is not a lot of flexibility so what is the incentive of someone who is going to go down for 10 years to co-operate.

“Where is the leverage? For law enforcement agencies dealing with gangs in the new millennium it is all about leverage. I would encourage the Government to look at it and see whether it is an appropriate model for Bermuda. This is obviously something that prosecutors would need to determine too. But from our experience it could help get guns off the street.

“Our biggest challenge is getting someone to give up a commodity, like a gun, that is so difficult to come by. We have to find ways to entice the people who know the whereabouts of guns or vital information to help us.

“The plea-bargain process where you get a lesser sentence in return for co-operation like handing in a weapon would certainly change the dynamics in Bermuda. Whether it could fit into our system we could have to see, but it is worth looking at.” 

There are provisions in the Bermuda law that allow a defendant to be sentenced to a lesser term if they provide assistance to an ‘investigation or prosecution’. But the sentencing discretion remains with the judge, and is nothing like the US plea-bargain system that is often arranged prior to any discussions taking place at court. n