The bill was tabled on the week of 28th April, 2011 with its mover, Attorney General Patrice Nisbett seeking his parliamentary colleagues’ support to have to important legislation form part of the Federation’s legal and judicial fabric.
Over the years, an alarming number of the robbery, murder, house breaking and larceny, and other related incidents have been committed by individual who disguised themselves with the aid of masks which – in most cases – has made the task of identifying them almost impossible.
Parts of the Small Charges Amendment Bill read: “Except when participating in a national Carnival or Culturama, parade or other official festival or pageant, a person who (a) without lawful excuse appears masked or otherwise disguised or (b) during a national carnival, Culturama parade or other official festival or pageant contravenes any regulation under this section commits an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.”
“Every person who without lawful excuse is found in possession of a mask in a public place commit and offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.”
The legislation received overwhelming support not only from government’s side of Parliament but also from the members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
In closing off the debate, the Attorney General said the “anti-mask law” is not unique to St. Kitts and Nevis and further indicated that the decision to enact that law was a good one. He also indicated that the legislation does not encroach upon the freedoms of citizens of this land, but rather, it a form of protection.
“Mr. Speaker, just to say that anti-mask law…is all over the world and so…we have not come to the parliament here in St. Kitts and Nevis as the first…seeking to pass legislation of this nature…So…this government…is in fact doing the right thing…in bringing this piece of legislation to the parliament to address the particular mischief that we have in our society day…and that mischief…is simple, people using masks to perpetrate criminal activity in our country…
“This legislation is not designed to protect parliamentarians; this legislation…is not designed to protect you Mr. Speaker. This piece of legislation that is before the parliament is designed to protect all the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is designed to prevent a particular mischief…in doing so…we believe that we will be able to make the country safer, create a safer environment where we can do the things…that we used to do without worrying about criminal activity…”