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Hay-Webster calls for debate on crime-fighting measures

Published:Friday | July 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

ONE WEEK after the House of Representatives approved a package of legislation to help in the fight against crime, an opposition backbencher has called for Parliament to take a more detailed look at the issue.

Sharon Hay-Webster, the member of parliament for South Central St Catherine, has recommended that a special sitting of Parliament take place to "engage in a comprehensive and full debate on all relevant crime-fighting measures".

She also wants the Parliament to focus on social-intervention measures and has requested that the House deal with the issue before the state of emergency, limited to St Catherine and the Corporate Area, is lifted on July 23.

Along with powers they now enjoy under the state of emergency, the police are now able to detain people for up to 60 days under the amended Bail Act. However, after the first seven days of detention, the individual must be brought before the court to determine whether bail should be granted.

The legislation also mandates the court to carry out reviews for bail at 14-day intervals until the 60-day period expires.

Hay-Webster, whose constitu-ency has been under siege from criminal activities, has suggested that the House must go further than the crime bills.

She noted that social research, both local and international, has indicated that harsh crime-fighting sanctions and harsh legislation do not reduce the incidence of crime and that the state of emergency can only yield temporary results.

It is, however, unlikely that the motion will be debated post-haste as Parliament has been adjourned until July 13.

In her Budget presentation in April, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller suggested a similar approach to that proposed by Hay-Webster.

Noting the impact of crime on the country, Simpson MIller urged that MPs "take time to discuss in Parliament the levels of crime in the country and the actions that as a people we must take", as she argued for a national consensus on crime.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding agreed with Simpson Miller on the need to come together for the good of the nation.

"The leader of the opposition and I are at one. We need a national consensus, not just about crime, justice, education and economic development. We need a national consensus on the kind of society we want to build," Golding said in his April Budget presentation.