I have noted with great disquiet, misleading information put into the public domain by the Minister of National Security, Attorney General and Acting Commissioner of Police during a press conference on Friday 31st March instant.
During the press conference it was suggested that the with the expiration of anti gang legislation which expired in August 2016, the Police had lost a vital tool in the fight against crime, particularly gang related crime, which it was submitted was directly responsible for the recent spike in violent crime.
It was further suggested that the Attorney General would be moving to have the expired legislation brought back to Parliament with the expectation of Opposition support and a veiled suggestion that if such legislation is not passed, the blame for the failure of the Government to deal with violent crime would be placed squarely at the doorstep of the Opposition.
We hasten to point out that the Opposition is committed to the passage of good law, which achieves a legitimate aim whilst not unnecessarily infringing on the fundamental rights of citizens.
The population would no doubt recall that Anti-gang legislation passed in 2011 was drafted with protectional safeguards which included a sunset clause, giving the legislation a 5 year lifespan, at the end of which, Government would determine whether the intended objectives were achieved, thus enabling an extension or whether the intended objectives were not realized and unrealizable and therefore not continued.
The 2011 Anti Gang Act created the offences of being a Gang Leader, being a member of a gang, recruiting members, harboring gang members and other associated offences.
Outside of charges laid under the Act during the State of Emergency of 2011, there have been a small number of prosecutions for offences under the Act without a single conviction during the 5 years of its existence.
Additionally, many of the offences under the Act were non bailable for an initial period of 120 days to allow the police and prosecution to put their respective houses in order with a view to commencing proceedings within the first 120 days following the first appearance of the accused before the Magistrate. The Police in 5 years were unable to start a single case within the stipulated 120 days.
An evaluation of the efficacy of the 2011 Anti-Gang legislation over the 5 years of its lifetime would therefore show that the detection rate for offences under the Act was abysmal at best. An evaluation would also show that the Police made very little, if any use of the initial 120 day period enabling persons charged to apply for bail.
The intended objectives were not realized and there is very little evidence to indicate that the legislation is capable of realizing its objectives.
The absence of anti gang legislation however does not prevent the police from charging gang members with many of the offences under the general criminal law.
It is therefore obvious that the excuses proffered during the aforementioned press conference are hollow and part of a public relations exercise designed to mask the incompetence of the Government and its agents.
The Opposition therefore calls upon the Government to operationalize its much touted 10 point crime plan and spare the population from government by public relations.
Senator Wayne D. Sturge
2nd April 2017