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Members of the Senate, on Friday (July 10), debated and passed a Bill entitled the Trade (Amendment) Act, 2009, which seeks to increase penalties applicable to breaches of the Trade Act.
The Trade Act provides for, among other things, the regulation of trade in goods, including the conditions of distribution, purchase and sale; and the importation and exportation, except under licence, of goods of any class or description.
Leader of Government Business, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill, noted that penalties under the Trade Act have not been increased since 1976 and, as such, are not currently deemed adequately punitive, or an effective deterrent to offenders.
The Trade Act currently provides for fines ranging from a minimum of $200 to a maximum of $3000, with custodial sentences not exceeding three months for breaches. The proposed amendments would see fines being increased to a maximum of $2 million, with custodial sentences increased to a maximum two years.
While acknowledging the importance of the amendments, Opposition Senators Mark Golding and K.D. Knight, voiced concern about the sharp increase in custodial sentences without the rationale being explained.
However, Government Senator, Desmond McKenzie, in voicing support for the amendments, stressed the need to have measures in place that will serve as effective deterrents to persons inclined to committing breaches.
The motion also saw amendments to the penalty provisions under the Trade (Scrap Metal) Regulations, 2007, which Senator Lightbourne said were necessary in light of “persistent non-compliance’ by stakeholders. The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in June.