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  • The Bill seeks to modernise and discourage acts that undermine the effectiveness or integrity of a Commission of Enquiry or which are disruptive of a Commission's proceedings.
  • Proposed amendments also strengthen the provisions, which deal with the offences and increases the penalties under the Act.
  • Fines for the applicable offences have moved from $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, to a maximum fine not exceeding $1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, October 22, passed amendments to the Commissions of Enquiry Act.

The Bill seeks to modernise and discourage acts that undermine the effectiveness or integrity of a Commission of Enquiry or which are disruptive of a Commission’s proceedings.

In his remarks, Attorney General, Hon. Patrick Atkinson, commented that Commissions of Enquiry are established from time to time to ferret out difficult situations and “awkward truths that may be hidden in some controversy”.

He said the Bill seeks to reinforce the provisions dealing with the conduct of the enquiry and will seek to put some teeth into efforts to undermine the integrity and effectiveness of a Commission of Enquiry.

He noted that the proposed amendments also strengthen the provisions, which deal with the offences and increases the penalties under the Act.

Penalties have been increased for offences such as: failure of a witness to attend or produce documents; adverse action by employers against employees, who testify before a Commission; refusal to take an oath or answer questions; improper dealing with documents; intimidation and bribery of witnesses; and misbehaviour affecting the Commissioner’s proceedings.

The fines for these offences have moved from $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, to a maximum fine not exceeding $1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

The decision to amend the Act was as a result of the difficulties experienced by the Commissioners in the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry in 2001 to obtain evidence. Subsequently, recommendations were made in the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry report in 2002, to address those difficulties.

The Commission of Enquiry Act empowers the Governor-General to issue a Commission, appointing one or more Commissioners, and authorising the Commissioners to enquire into the conduct of any public or local officers, or into any matter, in which an enquiry would, in the opinion of the Governor-General, be for the public welfare.