JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Bill makes provision for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations and outlines offences, in order to restore a sense of security in the Jamaican society.
  • Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, explained that the need to have the law in place resulted from the visible manifestations of organised crime and gang activities in Jamaica.
  • The Bill seeks to prohibit persons from: establishing a criminal organisation; taking part in, or participating in a criminal organisation; providing or obtaining a benefit from a criminal organisation; and harbouring or concealing a participant in a criminal organisation.

Debate on the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, popularly called the ‘anti-gang’ legislation, began in the Senate on February 28.

The Bill makes provision for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations and outlines offences, in order to restore a sense of security in the Jamaican society and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with crime effectively.

Opening the debate on the legislation, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, explained that the need to have the law in place resulted from the visible manifestations of organised crime and gang activities in Jamaica.

“These include the high volume of murders, shootings and other forms of assault, arson and property damage occurring over several decades.  Having regard to murders, statistics from 2013 indicate that 78 per cent of murders are gang related,” he outlined.

The Minister pointed out that the increase in gang activities has resulted in corruption, as organised crime and gangs seek facilitation for their illicit activities or bribe officials to help conceal their crimes and avoid detection.

He further noted that frequent confrontations between these armed elements and the police have resulted in over 500 gun attacks on the police per year, and over 200 fatal shootings of criminal suspects annually.

Mr. Golding also explained that the proliferation of gangs has resulted in a decline in the security of individuals and communities, adding that there has also been social instability brought on by frequent outbreaks of gang violence, killings and intimidation in communities and business districts.

In his contribution to the debate, Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, reiterated that the Bill as drafted, does not give additional powers to the police.

“There are no additional powers of search and there are no additional powers for arrest in the legislation, but we ask ourselves, will there be avenues for abuse in the legislation? We want to make sure that the legislation achieves the purpose that the Police say they want it to achieve and no more,” Senator Williams said.

Government  Senator, Imani Duncan Price, said she wholeheartedly supports the Bill as a critical part of a holistic crime fighting strategy for Jamaica.

“The fact is that the success of any law depends on competent and proper police investigation, the gathering of criminal intelligence, and the presentation of cogent evidence to justify that charge,” Senator Duncan Price said.

She added that the police, guided by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Academy, need to be trained and equipped with the skills needed for the “type of credibility and admissibility of evidence required by our courts.”

“It is how we use our resources in order to succeed with convictions under this Act,” Senator Duncan Price said.

According to the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons, the Bill seeks to prohibit persons from: establishing  a criminal organisation; taking part in, or participating in a criminal organisation; providing or obtaining a benefit from a criminal organisation; and harbouring or concealing a participant in a criminal organisation.

Clause three of the Bill seeks to criminalise the formation or establishment of a criminal organisation and any person convicted of this offence will face a period of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

In Clause four, it will be an offence to recruit a child to be a part of a criminal organisation, with any person found guilty of this offence facing a period of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

Clause 16 of the Bill, which speaks to the aggravating circumstances of recruiting a child within 300 metres of a school or any other educational institution, provides for the imposition of an additional 10 years on the 20 years.

Debate on the Bill will continue at the next sitting of the Senate on March 7.

The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 18 with 22 amendments.