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Tread cautiously, JamBar warns gov't

Published:Saturday | July 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

The Jamaican Bar Association (JamBar) is urging the Andrew Holness administration to tread cautiously with anti-crime measures that override the rights of citizens.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte indicated on Thursday that the Government was prepared to make radical changes to stem the country's spiralling murder rate. She warned that some "fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed to Jamaicans may have to be abrogated, abridged or infringed".

While indicating, however, that it fully appreciates the need to urgently address the murder rate, JamBar cited the Gun Court Act and the Suppression of Crimes Act as some of the tough anti-crime legislations enacted by successive governments that have failed to arrest the country's crime problem.

"In JamBar's respectful opinion, aspects of these various laws unjustifiably abrogated the rights of Jamaicans, including accused persons, while failing to achieve the desired results," the association said in a statement yesterday.

"This is largely because the root causes of crime were not being properly addressed," it continued.


JamBar also urged the Government to ensure that any changes being contemplated in relation to the Bail Act take into account a ruling by the Judicial Review Court that it was unconstitutional for the State to restrict an individual's access to bail.

"The Constitution of Jamaica, which includes the Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, remain Jamaica's supreme law, and the rights enshrined therein should be treated with the greatest respect," JamBar said.

The association said it is prepared to assist the Government with legal matters designed to address the crime problem while ensuring that the rights of every Jamaican is respected.

JamBar urged the Government to pursue a much broader approach to crime-fighting by making greater efforts at social intervention, including the creation of employment opportunities for young people.

The association also suggested that greater focus be placed on community policing, improving the intelligence capacity of the police, improving the justice system, and creating opportunities for the rehabilitation of convicted persons.