Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Lewellyn, is supporting the JCF’s request to be allowed to hold suspected members of a criminal organization for 14-days without charge.
Ms. Lewellyn says her experience in prosecuting gang members makes her sympathetic to the request from the police provided certain provisions are put in place. She was addressing a Joint Select Committee of Parliament to consider amendments to the country’s anti-gang law this afternoon.
Last week the JCF called on lawmakers to allow them to hold suspected gang members for up to 14 days without charge in order to complete investigations before charging them.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Selvin Hay, told the Joint Select Committee this is needed to process multiple members of a criminal organization who may be detained simultaneously.
However, Parliamentarians are hesitant to provide such powers which could breach the constitutional rights of individuals.
DPP Paula Lewellyn says while recognizing the hesitancy, such a provision is important in prosecuting criminal organizations.
She says in some instances her department has been forced to pull files from its vault to cross check with JCF material to corroborate information obtained from certain witnesses.
However, Ms. Lewellyn says conditions should be put in place to allow for monitoring by justices of the peace to ensure no abuse by law enforcement.
But, Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, says the minute someone is held without charge the constitutionality of the situation will be immediately tested.
Committee Chairman, Dr. Horace Chang, however argues that the realities of Jamaica’s crime problem are not being fully appreciated by those concerned with the constitutionality of the provision.
But, South St. Andrew MP, Mark Golding noted that there’s no way to get around the constitution. He says some independent body must be utilized in the form a review panel in which the police must satisfy that the continued detention of the individual or individuals is justified.
Meanwhile, a member of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, MOCA, Nigel Park is calling on Parliamentarians to make it an offence for members of a criminal organization to groom children.
He says far too often gangs recruit children to carry out various tasks such as trafficking arms.
Mr. Park also drew attention to what he sees as the sexual grooming of boys and girls by gang members. He’s urging lawmakers to urgently look into the issue.
Mr. Park is also calling on parliamentarians to legislate tougher penalties for those who repeatedly break the anti-gang law.