Parliament has appointed a 12-member joint select committee (JSC) to review the 2014 Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, 2014, usually referred to as the anti-gang legislation.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang will chair the committee, which also includes from the House of Representatives Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck; Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo Forte; junior minister for culture, gender, entertainment and sport, Alando Terrelonge, and Opposition Members of Parliament Fitz Jackson, Horace Dalley and Mark Golding.
The Senate will be represented on the committee by: Senators Ransford Braham, Charles Sinclair and Kerensia Morrison (Government), and (Opposition) Donna Scott Mottley and KD Knight.
Dr Chang told the Jamaica Observer Monday that he plans to hold a preliminary meeting of the committee next week, at which point it is expected that a timeframe will be set for completing the process by the end of 2018. Submissions will be requested, in light of the importance of the anti-gang legislation in the current strategies to fight crime and violence.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 18, 2014 and in the Senate on March 7, 2014. However, since then several concerns have been raised about its provisions.
Within two months of its passage, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn warned the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) of the need for parliamentary intervention to give police the powers to enter, search and seize.
“There are no expressed provisions in the Act for entry… giving the police investigators powers of entry, search and seizure of either suspected gang members or gang paraphernalia or documents, to be able to seize documents or other articles which identify criminal organisations or members and activities of the said criminal organisation!” the DPP cautioned.
“You need to make representation for Parliament to give you the express powers,” she urged the JCF.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has not commented on the re-tabling of the Bill or its reference to the JSC, but the Jamaica Observer understands that the Government would prefer to have the issue resolved before acceding to the Opposition’s constant demand to activate the provisions in its efforts to reduce crime and violence.
The Bill describes a “criminal organisation” as “any gang, group, alliance, network, combination or other arrangement among three or more persons (whether informally affiliated or organised or whether operating through one or more bodies corporate or other associations): (a) that has as one of its purposes the commission of one or more serious offences; or, in relation to which the persons who are part thereof or participate there in (individually, jointly or collectively) issue threats or engage in violent conduct …”