KINGSTON — The Senate today (July 22) passed a resolution prolonging the duration of the Constabulary Force (Interim Provisions for Arrest and Detention) Act until July 22, 2012.
The legislation, which came into effect on July 23, 2010, extends the powers of arrest and detention under sections 50B and 50F of the Constabulary Force Act, so that a person can be detained for up to 72 hours without being charged or taken before a magistrate.
Minister of National Security and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Dwight Nelson, who moved the resolution, said that the police have used the legislation in more than 3,455 cases where persons have been arrested for serious crimes.
He stated that with more than 80 per cent of violent crimes including murder, shooting, armed robbery and rape attributed to criminal gangs, the Bill has been heavily relied on in the counter gang strategy. "(The police) have been executing a…strategy which focuses on disrupting the gangs, arresting their members with evidence and degrading their capability to kill, maim and intimidate," he pointed out.
Senator Nelson stated further that during the pre-trial phase accused persons often exploit their freedom of movement to kill and intimidate witnesses as well as engage in violent acts of reprisal. "The police need and deserve all the support to assist them in executing their strategies," he stressed.
Opposition Senator Mark Golding, in his contribution, said he was not in support of the legislation as he "entertains great doubts as to its lawfulness and to its constitutionality."
Senator Nelson, in his response, stated that the law already provides for delays of up to 24 hours "so delaying bringing the accused before a court was already established in law prior to the amendment."
He expressed appreciation to Senator Golding for his contribution to the debate, while noting that "we can agree to disagree and I appreciate your expression that we need to support the police in their endeavours."
The resolution was passed in the House of Representatives on July 19.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter