MPs Worried Proposed Anti-Gang Law Amendments could Breach Constitution

Some Members of Parliament are concerned that certain amendments to the anti-gang legislation being requested by the National Security Ministry could breach the Constitution.

The concerns were raised at today’s sitting of Parliament’s Joint Select Committee considering amendments to the law enacted to tackle criminal organizations.

Chief Technical Director in the National Security Ministry, Rohan Richards, called for the Police Commissioner to be empowered request a declaration from a judge to formally identify an organization as criminal. He also called for court-sanctioned control orders to restrict individuals suspected of gang activity to include the use of electronic tracking devices. But, South St. Andrew MP, Mark Golding raised concerns about the inclusion of such provisions in the anti-gang law.

Mr. Golding was joined by East Central St. Catherine MP, Alando Terrelonge, who says leaving such a declaration to the police could be subject to abuse.

However, National Security Minister, Dr. Horace Chang, while conceding that the recommendations might need fine-tuning, says what is really needed is a criminal watch list.

Meanwhile, the National Security Ministry is also calling for better provisions under the country’s witness protection programme to protect the family members of witnesses who testify against gangs.

It’s also calling for provisions to allow a certain level of anonymity to be granted to surveillance officers and some crown witnesses.

Meanwhile, Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Lewellyn, is calling for the anti-gang legislation to be amended to allow law enforcement to attain search warrants under its provisions. She says this would enhance the investigative capacity of the police. She was speaking during today’s sitting of a Joint Select Committee of Parliament considering amendments to the anti-gang legislation.

The Director of Public Prosecutions says currently, the police must use either the Dangerous Drugs Act or the Firearms Act to gain search warrants. She says it’s critical for such a provision to be extended to the anti-gang legislation.

Mrs. Lewellyn says this provision is also surprisingly missing from Jamaica’s murder legislation. She also believes tbulletproofon must have additional offences, punishing the use of certain items in the furtherance of gang activities such as explosives and bulletproof vests.

The DPP also wants previous statements of witnesses who recant under oath to be admissible as evidence. She pointed to the X6 Murder trial of 2016 when the crown’s star witness recanted his testimony causing the case against businessman Patrick Powell to collapse.

Miss Lewellyn is also calling for the anti-gang legislation to allow for witness anonymity to guard against coercion and tampering.

However, some members of the committee feel this could violate the principle of allowing defendants to face their accusers. But, the DPP says this is already practiced in other jurisdictions.

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