Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Special zones law - What does it mean for you?

Published:Wednesday | July 26, 2017 | 12:01 AM

As Jamaicans across the island prepare for the announcement of the first zone of special operations, The Gleaner outlines key elements of the new law which address what individuals can expect if their communities are named.

Powers of the Joint Force

Cordons and Curfews

- The joint command between the police and the military may, during the zones of special operations, establish cordon around or within a zone, not exceeding 24 hours, or impose a curfew, not exceeding 72 hours.

- During cordon and curfew hours, persons must remain inside their premises unless further authorised by a member of the joint forces enforcement team.

- Members of the joint command, whether it be soldier or police, may, for the purpose of enforcing curfews and cordons, exercise arrest powers of a constable.

Search

- Joint force members may search any place, vehicle or person within any zone and without warrant, once there is reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or is about to be committed.

- Individuals in charge of search teams must attend all stages of search and this must be conducted in the presence of the owner or any person placed in charge of the property (any possession, including house, vehicle or any other item). All females must be searched by a female.

- Members of the security forces may, during searches, seize vehicles, articles or documents that will assist in preventing and controlling public disorder or which may be of value to the investigation of an offence.

- No member of the security forces should seize any tools of lawful trade unless having reasonable grounds that the tool is being used unlawfully.

- Lists must be compiled of all the vehicles, articles and documents seized. Receipts for the items seized must be given to the owner or the person put in charge of the property by the owner. Items seized must be stored safely.

- When an item seized becomes of no more use to any ongoing investigations, the items must be returned to the owner.

Arrests

- No person shall be arrested or detained for no reason, or unless the individual in charge of the operation is satisfied that the arrest is on reasonable grounds. All arrests must be properly recorded.

- Any person arrested must, as soon as possible, be informed of their offence. If the person in charge cannot determine reasonable grounds, a justice of the peace will use discretion to make the decision whether or not person is to be taken into custody for a period not exceeding 24 hours. After the 24 hours, the arrested individual will be taken before a parish judge. Every complaint made by arrested persons must be recorded in the station diary.

- Where arrested persons require medical attention, whether or not a complaint is made, members of the force must, without delay, take steps necessary for the individual to receive medical attention.

Body-worn cameras

- As far as is possible, members of the force are required to use body worn cameras when conducting operations within a zone. The Chief of Defence Staff and the Commissioner of Police shall establish procedures for the use of body worn cameras, including when and where body cameras are to be activated and deactivated. Members of the public are to be informed that they are being recorded.

Registration of weapons

- Weapons including ballistic signature and ammunition assigned to members of the security forces shall be registered with the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine before operations are conducted, unless determined otherwise by the Chief of Defence Staff or commissioner of Police.

Duty to disclose identity

- Persons located within special zones may be required to provide members of the security forces with their correct name including aliases and their full and correct address, if they are suspected to be in the process of committing a crime, has committed a crime or has committed a crime. Full compliance is expected in this regard. No false information should be provided.

- Any person who issues wrong information to the security forces about themselves is liable to be ordered by a Parish Court Judge to pay a fine not exceeding $100, 000 or serve a prison term of no more than 10 days if the fine cannot be paid.

Protection of Children

- During special zones of operations, members of the joint force are deemed to be Attendance officers for the purpose of enforcing section 23 of the Education Act, or a prescribed person, for the purpose of section 6 of the Child Care and protection Act.

Social intervention committee

The prime minister will establish a committee called the Social Intervention Committee within five working days of a zone being declared. The committee will be responsible for:

- Assessing infrastructure, environment, health, land and settlement conditions within zones.

- Identifying threats to sustainable development that exist within zones.

- Developing a sustainable development plan which will include solutions to the social problems of communities within zones (housing, health care and education).

- Recommending social interventions within zones, including compulsory school attendance areas and local improvement and urban renewal initiatives.

- Coordinating the implementation of social intervention programmes.

- Making recommendations that will take into account the basic needs of the different communities within the zone

- Paying close attention to vulnerable persons living, working and attending school within zones, especially children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.