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Story Highlights

  • The Bill seeks to discourage acts that disrupt the effectiveness of the Commission.
  • Fines for offences have been increased to a maximum of $3 million, a term not exceeding three years or both fine and imprisonment.
  • The Bill was passed with 21 amendments and will be sent to the House of Representatives for its approval.

The Commissions of Enquiry (Amendment) Act was passed in the Senate on  October 4.

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

Debate on  the Bill resumed in the Senate today, after it was suspended to allow for further dialogue.

Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Senator Arthur Williams, while noting the importance of modernising the legislation to improve its effectiveness, had expressed concern that all the offences stated in the Bill carry the same fine or term of imprisonment.

Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, who opened the debate on September 27, explained that the Bill will enhance the provisions dealing with conduct.

As such, 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 been increased  from $500 or in default of payment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, to a maximum fine of $3 million or a term not exceeding three years or both fine and imprisonment.

Closing  the debate, Senator Golding  said  some amendments have been made to the fines for certain offences.

“In relation to the fines, the penalties in each of the provisions are being adjusted as set out in the amended sheet,” Senator Golding said.

The fines for most offences now read “a fine not exceeding $1 million or in default of payment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.”

In her contribution to the debate, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, said that the review and amendment of the Principal Act  was timely.

The Bill was passed with 21 amendments and will be sent to the House of Representatives for its approval.

CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON