A Bill aimed at suppressing gangs as well as the prosecution and reform of juveniles found to be gang members has been introduced and given its first reading in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly.
The Gang (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2011, introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Sam Condor, at the June 2nd Sitting, is now available for public scrutiny.
It seeks to make provision for the maintenance of public safety and public order by discouraging persons from joining membership of criminal gangs and by suppressing gang-related activities.
The Bill also seeks to enhance law enforcement in the area of investigation and prosecution of criminal gangs and to deter and punish crime committed in concert by a gang, and in that connection it seeks to protect law – abiding citizens and communities from such crimes.
The Bill seeks to facilitate prosecution and reform of juveniles found to be members of such gangs who commit crimes in concert with gangs and the establishment of gang prevention programmes.
Part I of the Bill deals with matters of a preliminary nature, that is to say, the title of the Bill, the interpretation of certain words or expressions used in the Bill. It is important to note how the words “a gang”, “leader of a gang” “a member of the gang” are interpreted.
Part II of the Bill seeks to create several offences in relation to gang activities. Clause 3 seeks to prohibit the formation of a gang as defined by section 2 of the Bill. In that connection, the Clause seeks to make it an offence for one to form or attempt to form a gang; be or attempt to be a member of a gang; profess to be a member of a gang; be a member of a gang when that person is a law enforcement officer.
Clause 4 seeks to make it an offence for a person to coerce or encourage, entice, aid or abet another person to become a member of a gang.
Clause 5 seeks to make it an offence for a person to recruit persons, including children, as members of a gang.
Clause 6 seeks to make it an offence for a person to prevent or attempt to prevent a member of a gang member from leaving membership of the gang.
Clause 7 seeks to make it an offence for a person to participate in or support the activities of a gang or to solicit or invite support for a gang.
Clause 8 seeks to make it an offence for a person to have a bullet-proof vest, firearm or ammunition for the use or benefit of a gang.
Clause 9 seeks to make it an offence for a person to harbour or conceal a member of a gang who is wanted by a law enforcement officer.
Clause 10 seeks to confer powers of arrest, entry and search to police officers.
Clause 11 seeks to give the Court the power to order that any property utilized for the benefit of a gang may be forfeited in certain circumstances.
Part III of the Bill seeks to make provision for the deterrence and prevention of at-risk youth from joining gangs, which the Bill seeks to prohibit. Clause 12 seeks to empower the Minister, after consultation with the Prime Minister, to designate certain areas as gang activity areas that are located within the Federation.
Clause 13 seeks to set out the procedure to be followed in designating high intensity gang activity areas, and also sets out the criteria, (considerations to be taken into account), to be used when designating high intensity gang activity areas.
Clause 14 seeks to require the Minister to submit a report, every six months, to the National Assembly, in which report the Minister is required to describe, for every gang activity area, the following:
- specific long –term and short – term goals and objectives;
- measurements used to evaluate the performance of the high intensity group activity area in achieving the long – term and short – term goals;
- age, composition and membership of gangs;
- number and nature of crimes committed by gangs; and
Clause 15 seeks to make provision for the establishment of prevention programmes.
Clause 16 seeks to make provision for the enhancement of resources needed by the police in order to implement and carry out the purposes and provisions of the Bill.
Clause 17 seeks to provide for the initiation of gang resistance education programmes and training projects with a focus on the following:
- instilling in the youth the evils of participating in violence and crime in concert with gangs, and how such evils could be avoided;
- creating public awareness on the need to eradicate and prevent violence and gangs that commit crime in concert in the community, and the steps that ought to be taken to achieve that goal;
- reducing crimes committed by gangs in concert and youth violence; and
- any other objective or goal which is related or incidental to the foregoing.
Clause 18 seeks to make provision to empower the Minister to make regulations in order to give effect to the provisions of the Act, while Clause 19 seeks to make provision for the repeal of the Community (Protection from Certain Crimes) Act No. 18 of 2009.
The Bill is available for perusal at www.cuopm.com.
Recommendations, suggestions and comments can be sent in writing to the Parliamentary Counsel in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs or the Ministry of National Security.