By Latonya Linton
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, popularly called the ‘anti-gang’ legislation, was passed in the Jamaican Senate on Friday, with three amendments.
The law makes provision for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations and outlines offences, in order to restore a sense of security in Jamaican society and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with crime effectively.
Senator A.J. Nicholson
Minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade and leader of government business in the Senate, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said he supports the legislation, and argued that a higher penalty should be placed on gangs recruiting children.
Clause four of the Bill, which makes it an offence to recruit a child to be a part of a criminal organisation, stipulates that any person found guilty of this offence could face a period of imprisonment of up to 20 years.
However, clause five of the Bill also makes it an offence to recruit an adult 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.
“It cannot be that they carry the same penalty; it cannot be. So, let us see how we can rationalize that,” Nicholson said.
In his contribution to the debate, opposition senator, Ruel Reid, noted that in principle he fully supports the legislation.
“I want to reiterate that we fully support the intent of the legislation. I fully endorse the need to have effective public education on the Bill,” Reid said.
In his closing remarks, Senator Golding recommended that clause four be amended by making it 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 25 years.
“If the Senate feels strongly about the point we could look at increasing the basic term from 20 to 25 years for recruiting a child, so as to make some differential between the two offences. I wouldn’t have an objection to that,” Golding 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.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 18.