JIS News

Legislative changes designed to strengthen the country’s efforts to fight crime were unveiled by Prime Minister Bruce Golding in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 22). Mr. Golding announced seven initiatives that are intended to curb criminal activity in the country. His announcement followed weeks of intense discussions with the Opposition and consultations with critical stakeholders including human rights groups.
The new crime fighting measures proposed by Mr. Golding include an extension of the period for which persons can be detained on reasonable suspicion before being taken before a Resident Magistrate, from 24 hours to 72 hours. He said such detention must be authorized by a police officer of a rank no less than Assistant Commissioner of Police and the accused must be taken before a Resident Magistrate once the period expires. A proposal was also tabled for the withholding of bail for up to 60 days, where a person is charged with a serious offence such as murder or a firearm related offense. An accused may also be held for 60 days without bail if charged with a sexual offence or offences relating to drug trafficking, kidnapping and intimidation of witnesses. Provisions will be made for an appeal.
In relation to sentencing provisions, Mr. Golding said legislation will be introduced to specify that, on conviction of serious gun crimes, a person shall not be eligible for parole before serving ten years. He said while the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council has ruled that mandatory sentences are unconstitutional, “the legislature however, has the right and duty to signal to the Court, the firmness of its intention that serious crimes must attract punishment”, Mr. Golding said.
He further proposed an amendment to the qualified majority verdict in non-capital murder convictions, to provide for the conviction of an accused where an agreement is reached among no less than 9 out of a 12 member jury.
Noting that information held by different state agencies can assist the police in the detection of criminal activity, Mr. Golding said provisions will be made for the Commissioner of Police or the Chief of Staff of the Defence Force or any officer designated by them, to apply to a Judge in Chambers for the release of such information. Other changes proposed by the Prime Minister related to the taking of non-invasive DNA samples and the establishment of a DNA database to govern access to and use of the samples. He said provisions will be made for accused persons to obtain a copy of the DNA profile.
Mr. Golding also proposed an amendment of the Evidence Act to make provision for giving of evidence and cross-examination for remote locations as well as for the use of video-taped witness statements in Court trials. He said the new crime fighting measures will be supported by a social intervention programme and the implementation of recommendations outlined in the Strategic Review of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. He said $682 Million will be used for the continuation of the Citizens Security and Justice Programme.