Government Will Change Laws, Constitution To Toughen Up On CrimeAnd on the heels of this weekend's four murders in 24 hours, Cabinet today decided to proceed with the implementation of a package of get-tough anti-crime initiatives.
According to an official release this evening, Cabinet agreed to introduce a Bill in the House of Representative proposing constitutional changes for Preventive Detention, which - as it was originally proposed, would allow the 90 day detention of persons suspected of being involved in gang activity, without them being charged.
But the controversial nature of that proposal pales when compared to the other: Cabinet agreed to present legislation for the provision of Trial by Judge alone in certain limited cases and circumstances - presumably when there is a gang related murder in which witnesses and jurors would be subject to intimidation.
Amendments to the law will also be presented to preserve the anonymity of witnesses in gang-related cases.
Yesterday at a crime crisis press conference, the prime minister discussed these controversial proposals and also another directive to get magistrate's to compose a case file for cases that are dismissed so that they can be appeals:
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"We are going to pass a law that will give Magistrates a time limit in which - and that is the case now - they have to prepare a they have to prepare their reasons for decisions. It's just that now there is the requirement, but it is violated with impunity and nothing happens. Well consequences are going to attach to the failure of any magistrate to prepare the reason for decisions in a timely fashion so that the appeal can be dealt with. So that these people don't simply abuse the system and are allowed to get away scot free. I will go to Cabinet tomorrow, and I will ask that we reintroduce provisions change the constitution to bring into force preventative detention laws. Again, I am very sorry that at the last occasion, there was an outcry. We are at a point now where if all people of good sense don't realize that the situation is so extreme as to demand a measure like that, then I'm sorry. We will simply - once Cabinet gives me the approval - we will simply have to proceed in the face of whatever opposition there is. The Attorney General is being asked to meet with the Upper Judiciary. The death penalty is still on the books in this country. But in those cases where in fact the court is entitled to pass a sentence of death, we want that sentence in fact imposed. We're going to look at how we can actually preserve the anonymity of such a person. In other words, we will have to disclose the statement that is being made, but we are going to look at how we can fix the law so that we don't have to disclose the name of the person. There will have to be all sorts of safeguards built around this to ensure that there is no violation or abuse, but we have to look at it. I am at a point - I've said that in terms of preventative detention - I am determined to go forward in that. I need to be certain that my Cabinet is of the same mind. Now I am going out on a limb. I for one am certainly prepared to look at removing trial by jury in the case of charges for murder. That is - well as of now - I am flying solo on that one, but I am telling you that I will certainly ensure that this debate at least take place. Although, I can't go as far to as say that as with the preventative detention provision, I am confident that we will at least take those to the National Assembly."
Reports are that there will also be much stiffer penalties for possession of illegal firearms.
The official release stresses that all these measures are being taken in the larger context of the social interventions and job creation efforts.