Praedial Larceny Prevention Coordinator, Reginald Grant believes that while streamlining and updating of relevant laws are necessary, policemen and women could make a bigger dent in praedial larceny by more judicious use of the statutes relating to this burgeoning crime.
He told The Gleaner that while many of the financial penalties might seem too paltry to be effective, serving in some cases as more of an incentive than a deterrent to thieves, if used judiciously, in combination where necessary, could have the desired effect.
The retired assistant commissioner of police (ACP) pointed to the Larceny Act, The Unlawful Possession of Property Act and The Praedial Larceny Prevention Act which all relate to stolen property. However, it is the non-utilisation of Section 13 of the Larceny Act which provides for flogging and which in the past has had the desired effect that irks Grant.
The relevant section states: "Every person who steals, or with intent to steal, cuts, breaks, roots up or otherwise destroys or damage the whole or any part of a tree, sapling, shrub, underwood, plant, root, fruit or vegetable production growing in any place whatsoever shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof liable to be punished as in the case of simple larceny, and if a male, in addition thereto to be whipped."
Having gone public with his call for the resumption of flogging a year ago, which did not get the requisite traction, he has since embarked on a mission to get members of police force to become much more acquainted with the relevant sections of the law that can help their cases.
The maximum penalty for larceny of cattle is seven years, while killing animals with the intent of stealing also carries a maximum penalty of 14 years. So for stealing and killing cattle, a thief could end up serving 21 years, if the cop makes the case.
Sanctions provided for under the Malicious Injuries to Property Act, make for interesting if not curious reading, such as in relation to "injuries to machines, etc" for which an offender could be jailed for all of seven years. Setting fire to corn piece, etc., warrants 14 years in prison, while for setting fire to a stack of grain, etc., one could get life imprisonment.
So for Grant, even with the need for revision, the current legislation does provide enough ammunition to arrest and convict offenders, if the investigating officer is familiar with the relevant statutes.
Meanwhile, the praedial larceny prevention coordinator also charged farmers to learn about the laws that could help them in taking preventive action to protect their lives and property. He told farmers at the recent Windsor Farm Watch in Clarendon about the importance of fencing their properties and putting up 'No Trespassing' signs, which could make a difference in sentencing of the offender(s).