Tue | Oct 27, 2020

We will not tolerate breaches of the law – Hanover police

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 12:07 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

Following several recent instances of blatant breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act, including the staging of an unauthorised football competition, the Hanover police say offenders will no longer benefit from leniency but will, instead, be arrested and charged.

Two Sundays ago, the police showed up at the Hopewell Sports and Community Centre at the Orchard Housing Scheme to find a seven-a-side football game in full swing and some 200 spectators, who were not wearing masks or observing the social-distancing protocol, watching the game. The game was stopped and the organisers, the players, and the spectators ordered to leave.

With news circulating that the competition’s organisers, a prominent member of the Hanover Football Association, had plans to continue the competition last Sunday, the police turned up in large numbers with trucks and other vehicles to arrest offenders. However, when they arrived the venue was empty.

“If it is football, netball, volleyball, dance, the act (Disaster Risk Management Act) will be applied, and there might be other additional acts, like the Noise Abatement Act. Unlawful assembly under the Public Order Act might be also involved, as there are several acts that can deal with the containment of crowd and crowd control, and we will continue to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards these issues,” said Superintendent Sharon Beeput, the commanding officer of the Hanover police.

Within recent weeks, over 150 persons have been arrested and charged under the Disaster Risk Management Act by the Hanover police. Of those taken before the court, they have been collectively fined over J$1 million.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanover adopted a vigilant posture and was the last of the nation’s parishes to register a case of the coronavirus. Since the parish started to register cases, the numbers have steadily been rising, prompting concerns at the Hanover Municipal Corporation.

RISE IN CASES

At the corporation’s recent monthly meeting, concerns were raised about the steady increase in the number of positive cases. A decision was taken to convene a meeting of stakeholders to develop new strategies to control the rate of the spread of the virus.

However, in explaining the vigilant stance the police have been taking against offenders in enforcing the Disaster Risk Management Act, which has resulted in the convictions obtained in court, Beeput said the fines generated in court could be much higher.

“If all the judges in the parish had been charging the same amount for the offence, we would have cleared about four to five million dollars in fines to date,” explained Beeput, who noted that several persons, inclusive of even prominent individuals, were showing reluctance to comply.

“We will continue to enforce the Disaster Risk Management Act across the parish, and any activity that falls within that purview will be dealt with in accordance with the law under that act,” continued Beeput.

“I want to emphasise that moving forward, a zero-tolerance approach will be adopted to the issue of the wearing of mask in public places ... so we will be taking to the streets with regard to that,” added Beeput.

In statistics released last Friday, Hanover had 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while 471 individuals are under home quarantine.