The Senate has passed the six anti-crime Bills, first brought to Parliament in 2008 by the Government to support its efforts to reduce crime and violence in the country.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte
The Bills are: an Act to amend the Bail Act; an Act to further amend the Firearms Act; an Act to amend the Offences Against the Person Act; an Act to amend the Parole Act; an Act to make interim provision in relation to the grant of bail in specified circumstances; and an Act to make interim provision extending the powers of arrest and detention under Sections 50B and 50F of the Constabulary Force Act.
They were originally considered by a joint select committee of Parliament in 2008, but a lack of consensus between the Government and the Opposition on some of the provisions delayed passage. They were withdrawn by the Government, redrafted and re-tabled in Parliament on June 1, to support the current anti-crime efforts.
They were passed by the House of Representatives on June 22, and eventually approved by the Senate on Friday (July 9). The Bills will now be sent back to the House for final approval, then to the Governor-General for his assent before they are gazetted.
Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Senator A.J. Nicholson, objected to the provisions of the Act to make interim provision in relation to the grant of bail in specified circumstances, stating that the provisions infringed citizens rights.
“As far as the 60-day bail proposals are concerned, we will not be supporting those Bills,” Senator Nicholson said.
The Act proposes that a person charged with violent or certain drug-related offences, should be entitled to be granted bail only after the expiration of a period of 60 days, commencing on the date on which he/she is first charged, and only if the person satisfies the court that bail should be granted.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, admitted that the Bill was a “draconian type of legislation”, but suggested that the provisions could assist the fight against crime and violence.
“Given what we know on the ground, it is worth experimenting with to see whether or not it would assist us in the necessary fight against crime and violence. (But) I cannot in all good conscience stand up and say it is not a difficult policy position; it is,” Senator Malahoo Forte said.
However, she contended that if Jamaica is afraid to “step out beyond the ordinary into the extra ordinary” to do what may be necessary to reduce crime, the country may never achieve any success in solving the problem.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Senator Warren Newby, urged the security forces to honour the spirit of the Bills, and help to create greater level of trust between themselves and persons of humble circumstances in the society.
The Bills, which were taken individually, were passed without any amendments.