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'Pity so late' - Golding comments on the delayed gov't move to restart committee examining laws to support women and children

Published:Friday | July 15, 2016 | 7:00 AMJovan Johnson
Mark Golding

Mark Golding, Senator and opposition spokesman on justice, says the Andrew Holness administration of almost five months has had the opportunity to reconvene a parliamentary committee to examine laws to curb crimes against women and children and that "it is a great pity" the issue is just now getting attention.

Golding's comment follows the announcement on Tuesday in the House of Representatives by Gender Affairs Minister Olivia Grange that a joint select committee of the Parliament is to be reconvened to continue examining the Offences Against the Person Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.

She said the committee went dormant in 2014 under the previous government but, following consultations with Delroy Chuck, the justice minister, the committee was to be reconstituted and asked to continue its work.

The decision follows Sunday's murder of three-year-old Nevalesia Campbell in Orange Hill, St Ann, and the renewed calls for tougher penalties against perpetrators of crimes against women and children.

Golding explained that the committee had to break because "two other Parliamentary Joint Select Committees - one reviewing the Integrity Commission Bill, and the other the INDECOM Act - were working at the time and those committees were chaired by the then minister of justice".

"It was not possible," he said, "from a scheduling standpoint for three parliamentary committees, dealing with such complex and important matters, to be working simultaneously over the same period."

 

NEW COMMITTEE UNDER WAY

 

While noting that the reports from the INDECOM and Integrity committees were yet to be tabled in the Parliament, he argued that "there is really no good reason why the parliamentary committee to review the Sexual Offences Act has not been reconvened to date, when we are already more than halfway through 2016".

No other joint select committee of the Parliament has been established since the new Parliament was opened in March.

The new committee is expected to be reconvened after the summer break, but Golding said that the work to be done was not expected to be completed "until well into next year".

Speaking in the House on Tuesday, Grange said it was time for action; but Golding said, "If the Government is serious, it should take immediate legislative action that sends a strong signal to depraved criminals who violate our children, and to wayward parents who leave their children at risk."

One way he said the Government could demonstrate its seriousness is to re-table the Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment) Act 2016 and the Child Care and Protection (Amendment) Act 2016 which were tabled earlier this year, but fell of the House's agenda with the dissolution of the Parliament.