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Story Highlights

  • The Bill makes provision for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations.
  • A Joint Select Committee of Parliament was established to consider and report on the legislation in July 2013.
  • The passage of the Bill will allow Jamaica to comply with international obligations under the United Nations Convention against transnational organised crimes.

Debate on the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, popularly called the ‘anti gang’ legislation, began in the House of Representatives on February 11.

The Bill makes provision for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations and outlines offences, in order to restore a sense of security in the Jamaican society and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with crime effectively.

A Joint Select Committee of Parliament was established to consider and report on the legislation in July 2013.

Opening the debate, Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, explained that the need to have the law in place resulted from the visible manifestations of organised crime and gang activities in Jamaica.

“These include the high volume of murders, shootings and other forms of assault, arson and property damage occurring over several decades.  Having regard to murders, statistics from 2013 indicate that 78 per cent of murders are gang related,” Mr. Bunting stated.

He noted that frequent confrontations between these armed elements and the police have resulted in over 500 gun attacks on the police per year, and over 200 fatal shootings of criminal suspects annually.

The Minister also explained that passage of the Bill will allow Jamaica to comply with international obligations under the United Nations Convention against transnational organised crimes.

Mr. Bunting pointed out that the legislation, contrary to public views, does not create or give to the police any additional powers.

“What this Bill does is to create a new set of offences that the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions can use in pursuing criminals. In fact, this piece of legislation should be similar in its effect to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act in the United States, which is intended to go after the leaders (of criminal gangs),” Mr. Bunting stated.

Clause three of the Bill seeks to criminalise the formation or establishment of a criminal organisation and any person convicted of this offence will face a period of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

In Clause four of the legislation, it would be an offence to recruit a child to be a part of a criminal organisation, with any person found guilty of this offence facing a period of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

“Clause 16 of the Bill, which speaks to the aggravating circumstances of recruiting a child within 300 metres of a school or any other educational institutions, would provide for the imposition of an additional 10 years on the 20 years,” Mr. Bunting said.

The Minister urged the House to be resolute in sending the strongest message to criminals and criminal enterprises that schools and institutions of learning are sacrosanct.

For his part, Leader of Opposition Business in the Lower House, Derrick Smith, said the Opposition supported the Bill.

“We welcome the progress that has been made over the past few months in terms of reviewing the provisions and moving forward towards its implementation,” Mr. Smith said.