by Larry Smith
In Parliament last week, National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest responded to my complaint about the lack of comprehensive information on crime and justice by saying there was "too much" of it in the public domain!
He then went on to table the latest crime statistics (which obviously weren't public beforehand), and quoted from a report which he described as "confidential" because it contained the names of judges who had granted bail to repeat offenders and others accused of serious crimes.
Well, why should that little detail make such a report confidential? The data in that report contains most of the information I was referring to earlier. If a public official (a judge) makes a public decision (a ruling) in a public court of law, how come the public can't know about it?
If I attended the courts 24/7 (as the chief justice so helpfully suggested recently) I would already know this information. Give me a flipping break!
And even if we were to concede that this particular piece of public information should be kept secret, why isn't the rest of the information contained in the report put in the public domain and published on a regular basis?
Only a few months ago the Guardian was complaining that it couldn't get access to the latest crime figures from the police. Turnquest eventually broke that bottleneck, but that doesn't deny it existed.
Why are we so petulant about the issue of public information being available in the public domain? We all know how things go here. As I said before, the political class think that information is their right to withhold as one of the perquisites of power.
I'll say it again - in order to properly weigh the issue of bail we need comprehensive facts and figures. How many suspects are bailed annually, for what offences and after what length of remand? How many of these people commit crimes while on bail? What happens to them after that? What are the reasons for them being bailed? I could go on, and on.