The Senate on Thursday, March 21, passed a Bill to prosecute persons involved in the illegal lottery scam.
Some 14 amendments have been made and it will be sent back to the House for approval.
The Bill Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act addresses, among other things: obtaining any property or inducing any person to confer any benefit on any person by false pretence; inviting or otherwise inducing a person to visit Jamaica for the purpose of committing an offence under the Act; and knowingly conducting a financial transaction with the proceeds of an offence.
It also makes provision for powers of search and seizure and restitution, and for guilty persons to be fined and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for up to 25 years.
In his comments, Government Senator, K.D. Knight, said he agreed with the provision of the Bill which states that a person charged with an offence under the Act will be committed for trial without any preliminary examination.
“As a member of the legal profession I have heard some comments from some of my colleagues dealing with this, and expressing some discomfiture with it. But, I don’t share the discomfiture because it exists in the Gun Court Act. There is no preliminary enquiry on a charge of illegal possession of firearm,” Senator Knight said.
He also argued that it has become necessary to increase the number of judges in order to deal with the level of cases that will arise from this illegal activity.
For his part, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Senator Arthur Williams, emphasised that the Bill is needed to effectively tackle the crime that has become a scourge on the country.
“This legislation is the culmination of efforts of law enforcement to tackle this problem that has been with us for some time now. The nature of the criminal minds involved in the lotto scam are constantly evolving and finding new ways to carry out their nefarious activities. Law enforcement must be one step ahead of them in order for us to effectively deal with this problem as a nation,” Senator Williams said.
Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, in his remarks said he is concerned that offences committed under the Act will not be tried by jury, but instead by a single judge.
“These offences are going to be harder to put together than your normal routine charge, so I only hope that when this becomes law, the prosecutors and the Supreme Court will have a better working relationship with the investigators, to ensure that the cases are properly put together,” he said.
In his comments, Senator Lambert Brown raised concern that preliminary examination will not be facilitated under the Bill.
“There is no magic in the single judge. We need to strengthen the (justice) system. Given the emergency that we face, I will vote for this Bill. This position is not to defend the criminals who are guilty; they must pay,” Senator Brown emphasised.
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, in dealing with the levels of sentencing, said there is need for a strong deterrent, given the prevalence of the lottery scam.
“We feel that the levels of sentencing that are in the Bill are appropriate for that purpose. They are not a minimum, they are indeed a maximum and there is full discretion given to the judge,” he said.
On the matter of jury trial, the Justice Minister noted that this was not feasible, due to the nature of the crimes.
“Where organised crime is involved and (there is) propensity for violence and intimidation, we will not have an effective trial if there is a jury,” Senator Golding argued.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter