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Letter of the day - Amend laws to curb crime

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM


It is no great revelation to state that Jamaica has many difficult and intractable problems. However, I am convinced that for several of them, if not most, there are logical and methodical approaches that can be taken to claw our way out of them if we would only recognise that we have a crisis and act as though we are serious.

Case in point: Why don't we take the commissioner of police seriously when he outlines the points of weakness in our legislation and laws that militate against effective crime fighting and crime reduction?

He has been specific, for example, pointing out the weaknesses in the Evidence Act, which virtually allows suspected lotto scammers when corralled by the police, to secure bail even though the police have cause to have them detained.

a crisis

The terrorist attacks on the US homeland on September 11, 2001, and the deaths of more than 3,000 innocent persons instantly heralded a crisis for that country. The now infamous USA Patriot Act was one major response to that crisis, as it sought to secure and create a safer country by granting new and extraordinarily sweeping powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies.

In just 30 days, this legislation gained passage in the normally partisan and vexatious US Congress. Even though the law has been criticised for some of its apparent unconstitutional aspects, and even as the debate continues, the law has been continually ratified even during this Obama administration. They had a crisis and they took action.

No one should advocate for knee-jerk legislation that tramples on or curtails the rights of any Jamaican citizen. Making effective laws that are also constitutionally sound may present a challenge, but not one that is beyond our capacity to overcome.

potent weapons

Jamaica's Proceeds of Crime Act and the Terrorism Prevention Act are potent weapons that can be used against criminals. However, if enabling amendments to the rules of evidence, use of video-teleconferencing and proven forensic methods are not allowed to be coupled with good police work, the crisis of crime will continue to sweep over us.

The commissioner has repeatedly called on the Government to speedily amend the Evidence Act. Other voices such as those of the Office of the Contractor General, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and members of civil society have tabled approaches that an intelligent Parliament, working in the interest of the people, should be able to consider and convert into law.

It will require a greater time commitment on the part of our parliamentarians, but in this moment of exigency, who would be averse to the Parliament sitting up to three days per week?

We have a crisis that demands action. We must act as though we are serious.