Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, on June 22, 2012 tabled in the Senate, an Order to bring the United Kingdom (UK) and British Overseas Territories under the ambit of the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act.
The Senator explained that the Act facilitates important forms of legal assistance between Jamaica and other countries with which Jamaica has entered into treaties providing for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
The British Overseas Territories include: Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bermuda, Montserrat, and Anguilla. The Minister noted that Cabinet had approved a submission for the making of an Order designating the UK and the specified British Overseas Territories as Commonwealth states for the purposes of the Act.
He said the Order resulted from a letter he had received from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) in late March this year, bringing his attention to a request the Office had received from the relevant authorities of one of the British Overseas Territories, pointing out that the request could not be granted because this country had not been brought within the ambit of the Act.
“It was pointed out by the ODPP that failure to bring this and the other British Overseas Territories in the region under the Act was adversely affecting Jamaica’s co-operation arrangements in criminal matters with the law enforcement authorities of those countries, as many requests for legal assistance had been coming to Jamaica from those countries and Jamaica was not able to respond favorably,” he said.
Senator Golding noted that this, in turn, was affecting how favourably those countries respond to mutual requests for legal assistance from Jamaica. “The ODPP requested me to rectify this situation by making an Order bringing these countries within the ambit of the Act,” he explained.
The Senator said the designation of these (countries) under the Act is critical to the nation’s war on transnational crime, as it will be an important tool to help combat the high levels of organized crime, and corruption being experienced by the country and the Caribbean as a whole.
“Several of these countries are offshore banking centres and tax havens, and well known jurisdictions for the holding of funds and other assets, and Jamaicans have significant investment and commercial links with these jurisdictions. It is clearly in the public interest to facilitate mutual legal assistance between the law enforcement agencies of Jamaica and these countries,” Senator Golding argued.
The forms of legal assistance available under the Act include matters, such as the location, examination and taking the testimony of witnesses, the production of documents and other records, the carrying out of search and seizure, and tracing, seizure and forfeiture of property.
“These facilities for legal assistance provided by the Act apply to those countries which have been designated by an Order for this purpose made by the Minister of Justice,” Senator Golding explained.
He further pointed out that the Order is subject to affirmative resolution and it is anticipated that the resolution will be taken and passed at the next sitting of the Senate.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter