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Gangster lyrics could land artistes in jail - Measure among far-reaching provisions in proposed anti-gang law

Published:Wednesday | June 26, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

Songs with lyrics glorifying the gun and others that promote or facilitate the criminal activities of an organised criminal network or gang could land offenders in jail for between five and 30 years.

The anti-gang legislation tabled in Parliament yesterday by National Security Minister Peter Bunting also sets out some far-reaching provisions in relation to signs, graffiti, and symbols.

Titled the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act 2013, or the anti-gang law, the proposed statute seeks to prohibit the "use of signs, symbols, graffiti, or songs to promote or facilitate the criminal activities of a criminal organisation".

Ironically, a current member of the Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Horace Dalley, earned himself the moniker 'Gangster For Life' through his own self-styled pronouncement during a political rally.

In determining whether a person is part of or a participant in a criminal organisation, the court might take into account all factors that appear to be relevant, including evidence that the person "knowingly concealed or shared in the proceeds of unlawful activity engaged in by the criminal organisation or any of its participants".


The court will also take into account evidence that the "person has been identified as associating or being involved with the criminal organisation or any of its participants".

Under the offence of aiding and abetting a criminal organisation, the bill states, "A person shall not harbour or conceal a person, knowing that the person is a part of or a participant in a criminal organisation."

The memorandum of objects and reasons of the bill states that the proposed law seeks to create offences for the disruption and suppression of criminal organisations in order to restore a sense of security in the Jamaican society and strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement agencies to deal with crime effectively.

"In the interest of the administration of justice, public safety, public order, or public morality, the court may direct that the identity of a witness and other particulars of the case be kept confidential and not be published," the bill states.

Under the proposed law, a criminal organisation is defined as any gang, group, alliance, network, combination, or similar arrangement among three or more persons, whether formally or informally affiliated or organised.

A criminal organisation, as defined by the bill, has as one of its purposes the commission of one or more serious offences, and its participants or members engage in unlawful activity in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit or to gain power or influence.

The criminal organisation or gang is also identified by its characteristic of issuing threats or engaging in "conduct to create fear and or intimidate or to exert power and influence in communities, or over other persons".

With a few exceptions, where offences will be tried in the Resident Magistrate's Court, offences under the anti-gang law will be tried in a Circuit Court. This will be by a judge sitting alone, and proceedings will be conducted in camera.

The bill seeks to prohibit:

The formation or establishment of a criminal organisation;

Taking part in or participating in a criminal organisation;

The exercise of leadership functions at any level of the organisational structure of a criminal organisation;

The provision of a benefit to or obtaining a benefit from a criminal organisation;

The facilitation of the activities of a criminal organisation or knowingly aiding or abetting a criminal organisation to commit a serious offence;

The harbouring or concealment of a participant in a criminal organisation;

The concealing, transporting, disposing of or tampering with evidentiary material relating to the criminal activity of a criminal organisation;

Retaliatory action against a person who has left a criminal organisation.

The proposed statute seeks to prohibit the "use of signs, symbols, graffiti, or songs to promote or facilitate the criminal activities of a criminal organisation".