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Cabinet has approved US$883,800 for the procurement of 1,000 new bulletproof vests, 400 replacement vests and 600 helmets for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
This was announced by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at a post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on June 27.
Mr. Patterson said that due to the fact that these items were sensitive to national security, and “following research and consultations, it was recommended at the Procurement Meeting of the JCF Finance Branch, that the contract be awarded on a sole source basis”.
This decision, he said, was endorsed by the National Contracts Commission (NCC) in a letter dated May 12, 2005.
Turning to the legislative agenda, the Prime Minister announced that Cabinet has given approval for the tabling of the Committal Proceedings Bill in the House this week. The Bill aims to abolish the existing procedure of preliminary examinations in cases of indictable offences and seeks to put in its place a new committal proceedings regime.
Mr. Patterson noted that the practices, which have evolved in preliminary examinations, have eroded the beneficial features of this mode of proceedings.
Lengthy hearings, he pointed out, led to increased legal costs and additionally, to attacks on witnesses, which could result in their death.
“We believe that this abolition of preliminary enquiry, should among other things, subject our witnesses to less exposure in the criminal justice system,” he pointed out.
The Prime Minister said that statements that would now go forward to the Circuit Courts for trial, must be taken by police officers, not below the rank of a Sergeant. These statements must be taken in the presence of a Justice of the Peace, and sworn to, so that any departures from the said statements, could result in charges of perjury.
This would also ensure that the testimony given was not obtained by force, duress, or undue promise. It is expected that committal proceedings would facilitate expeditious trials and therefore remove some of the burdens that afflicted the machinery of justice, he noted.
The Prime Minister informed that five pieces of legislation would also be tabled in the House of Representatives in the month of July – Amendment to the Evidence Act; Amendment to the Larceny Act; Amendment to the Interception of Communications Act; the introduction of a Bill to make provision for notice of Alibi Evidence to be given before trial; and legislation for the establishment of a civilian Police Oversight Authority.
Amendment to the Evidence Act is to provide for television-linked testimony and to make computer based evidence readily admissible, while the Amendment to the Larceny Act is to deal specifically with the offence of extortion.