The report of the Joint Select Committee to review the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, 2014, commonly called the anti-gang legislation, was adopted in the House of Representatives on May 27.
Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said that every effort will be made to move speedily to the next stage of making the Cabinet submission and getting the legislation approved.
He highlighted some of the major recommendations from the Committee, which will be taken to Cabinet for approval.
These include removing the term “serious offence” in Section 2 of the Act and replacing it with “applicable offence”.
“It took a lot of debate. It is a simple change, but it is supposed to bring some additional facility to the police force as we seek to allow them to incorporate into the prosecution simple activities done by gangs,” Dr. Chang said.
“Some of the gangs have become more sophisticated. They are involved in legitimate and semi-legitimate activities, even simple larceny, which would not have been a prosecutable offence under the anti-gang legislation, prior to this amendment, ” he noted.
Another major proposal is an amendment to Section 6 (3) of the Act to include any identifying signs and symbols (including gang tattoos and paraphernalia) that the Court may take into account when determining whether a person is a part of or a participant in a criminal organisation.
“It will give the police an improved facility to identify the gang members,” Dr. Chang said.
The Committee also recommended expanding the list of aggravating factors to be considered when sentencing a person convicted of certain offences under the Act.
These factors, which will attract an additional 10 years’ imprisonment, include: if a person uses any premises in furtherance of gang activity similarly to what obtains in the Lottery Scamming Act; if a person is involved in aiding, abetting, inciting or inducing an act of violence as part of the process of recruitment of a child; if an offence under Section 12 is committed against a child involves aiding, abetting, inciting or inducing an act of violence in order to prevent or obstruct a person from ceasing to be a part of a criminal organisation or to provide benefit to a criminal organisation; and if a person has in their possession, any item of dress, designation or description of a law-enforcement officer.
Dr. Chang also mentioned that while the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act was not being reviewed, the Committee recommended consequential amendments to this Act.