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KINGSTON — A Resolution seeking extension of the duration of the Constabulary Force (Interim Provisions for Arrest and Detention) Act, was passed in the House of Representatives on July 19.

The Constabulary Force (Interim Provisions for Arrest and Detention) Act, which came into effect on July 23, 2010, is scheduled to come to an end on July 23, 2011.

This Act extends the powers of arrest and detention under sections 50B and 50F of the Constabulary Force Act, so that a person can be detained for up to 72 hours, instead of 24 hours, without being charged or taken before a Magistrate.

It also provides for the arrest and detention of a person outside of the locality of a curfew or cordon, if a Divisional Commander or a member of the JCF at the rank of Assistant Commissioner is satisfied that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that the person is about to commit, or has committed a crime within the area of the curfew or cordon.

Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who moved the Resolution, noted that the Act has been a critical tool employed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in reducing serious crimes, and it is therefore expected that an extension of the duration of the Act will contribute further to the reduction of those crimes.

“The intention is to strengthen police capabilities and intensify crime prevention and apprehension. This Act was put forward as a temporary measure to treat with the unprecedented levels of crime in the country and was intended to, amongst other things, facilitate investigations by the police to safeguard witnesses from intimidation and prevent recidivism on the part of the accused person,” Mr. Chuck said.

In her remarks, Member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, Sharon Haye Webster, said she supported extension of the Act.

“For the protection of the citizens when ‘persons of interest’ are named and turn themselves in, it makes a difference in the community.  I know that this has made a difference in cutting the level of crime in Spanish Town,” Mrs. Haye Webster said.

Minister of Housing, Environment and Water, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, in voicing his support for the extension, noted that there is a need to give the police the resources to fight crime in order to be effective.

“The Government, through several programmes, has had a major impact in inner city areas.  We have had a reduction in homicides, and what the Government has, is a series of events, activities and programmes that have impacted the inner city communities and that whole framework ought not to be disturbed at this point in time. It’s less than a year of activity and it needs to be extended to ensure that we have not only the impact of reduction in homicides, but a change in the culture in the inner city areas,” Dr. Chang said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesperson on National Security, Peter Bunting,  argued that  the provision encroaches on the fundamental rights of the people of Jamaica.    

“Therefore, any contemplation of extension must be based on sound arguments supported by empirical analysis. Arbitrary arrest and detention is being used to harass the citizens of this county and all the doubling arrests have not resulted in any more conviction in the country. It is clear that no causation has been established between these interim laws and a reduction in crime,” he said.

In his response, Mr. Chuck noted that the Act does not give the police the authority for arbitrary arrest, arrest without cause or for “scraping up people."

The extension was approved without the support of the Opposition.

 

By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter