Debate on the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) (Amendment) Act, 2021, commonly called the anti-gang legislation, began in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 26).
The legislation will provide an additional game-changing tool to the security forces in combatting criminal gangs.
The report of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) to review the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, 2014 was adopted in the House of Representatives in May 2020.
Piloting the Bill, Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said the latest statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that there are 379 gangs in Jamaica.
Of this number, 262 are considered active gangs, which reflects an increase of five per cent over 2019.
“For the year 2020, 802 or 61 per cent of murders were assessed to be gang-related. The JCF has identified the sources of income for the most influential second-generation gangs to be through contract killing, extortion, robberies and drug and firearm-trafficking activities. As a result, these criminal gangs continue to create mayhem in our society and are the main drivers of the elevated crime rate,” Dr. Chang said.
The National Security Minister said the principal Act is being amended to reflect the recommendations from the JSC.
“It should also be noted that the Ministry took into account the summary Judgment from the Courts on the landmark Uchence Wilson trial. In addition to the recommendations of the JSC, after further consideration and consultation with key stakeholders involved in operational activities, some additional amendments were recommended to further strengthen the Bill,” Dr. Chang said.
“These additional amendments were approved by the Legislation Committee on April 21, 2021, and subsequently by the Cabinet on April 26, 2021,” he added.
The amendments to the Act specify additional offences for activities in which criminal organisations are engaged, increase the number of offences under the Act, expand the list of aggravating factors to be considered when sentencing an individual convicted of certain offences under the Act, and improve the trial procedure in order to protect the identity of witnesses for connected matters.