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The House of Representatives yesterday (Nov. 21) passed an Act to Repeal the Public Gardens Regulation Act of 1899, to among other things, increase the fines for breaches of the law.
Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Hon. Roger Clarke, in outlining the amendments to the legislation, which governs the use of public parks and zoos, explained that, “although the Act was amended in 1968 and 1969, the amendments were not far reaching and do not begin to contemplate the dynamism required to conserve, manage and maintain these national treasures”.
Mr. Clarke said it was necessary to increase the maximum fines from $10 to $250,000 and stated that he could, at his discretion, increase the penalties laid out in the new Act.
Some of the new provisions are geared towards enforcement. “Specific offences are now created to deal with situations such as the destruction of trees, flowerbeds or shrubs or unauthorized acts such as picking fruits, plants or flowers or selling goods [in the parks],” Mr. Clarke explained.
“The Act deals with seizure and impounding. A constable or police officer stationed at a public garden may seize any stray animal trespassing thereon and be, with all reasonable dispatch, and not later than 48 hours after such seizure, transport the animal to the nearest pound,” he said.
Minister Clarke said that the unlawful destruction of park property, including injury to zoo animals, would attract conviction in a Resident Magistrate (RM) Court for a fine not exceeding $250,000 or a maximum of three months imprisonment.
Speaking further, Minister Clarke stated that “any constable stationed in a public garden or zoo may take into custody without any warrant, any person who in the public garden and in the view of such constable, acts in contravention of this act or any regulations made there under”.
In the meantime, Minister Clarke pointed out that there would be a no-nonsense approach towards the enforcement of park and zoo regulations, and offenders were expected to cooperate with the lawmen who will be placed in the parks.
“Any such person, who when required by a constable to give his name address, gives a false name and a false address, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment to a term not exceeding three months,” the Minister informed.
“Of particular note” he said, “is the establishment of a post of Superintendent of Gardens. The Superintendent has the right to delegate or assign his functions under the Act and designate any area within a public garden for specific activities”.
The Superintendent, he said, could enter into contractual arrangements with persons and organisations in relation to recreational activities and host prescribed public ceremonies.
Furthermore, the Minister said it was necessary to obtain the written permission from the Superintendent to reside, camp, erect huts or booths (whether fixed or movable) on or reap fruits from public parks.
Failing to do this the offender is liable to serve three months in prison or pay a maximum fine of $250,000 in a RM Court. The legislation was originally passed in 1899.