By Latonya Linton
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, popularly called the ‘anti-gang’ legislation, was passed in Jamaica’s House of Representatives on February 18 with 22 amendments.
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.
In his contribution to the debate, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson reiterated that the Bill does not provide additional powers to the police and does not encourage tough policing.
“While it is understandable that civil society and persons are concerned about their individual rights, we must bear in mind that this piece of legislation will not exist in isolation,” he said, adding that it will be subject to the supremacy of the Constitution and to the supervision of the courts.
“Indeed, when the police act under it they still have to go to court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the allegations against the particular person they take before the court are proven,” he explained.
The attorney general emphasized that the disruption of, and suppression of criminal organisations is fundamental to solving Jamaica’s crime problem.
Opposition Member of Parliament for St Andrew North Eastern, Delroy Chuck, while defending the integrity of the Bill, said that criminal gangs in Jamaica have to be dismantled.
“This piece of legislation will capture them (criminals) and ensure that they are put away for long periods. There is no doubt, as we have seen over the past few days or weeks, that there are gangs operating in communities who are terrorizing citizens, not only with threats but with violence and extorting from them and that must stop,” he said.
Chuck added that the Bill will ensure that those who engage in gang activity and are found guilty after due process will be put away for long periods.
Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting. JIS Photo
Closing the debate, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting encouraged critics to have a closer look at the Bill that was tabled in June 2013 and the amended version, which has been passed.
He pointed out that submissions to the Joint Select Committee, which considered the Bill, have made it better than what was brought to Parliament in 2013.
“We are not saying that this Bill is a panacea, but we think it will take us forward,” the minister said.