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Jul 26, 2008 News
.. paedophiles, rapists among those targeted
The National Assembly was yesterday divided on the possibility that amendments which were eventually passed for the Preventions of Crimes Act would in anyway achieve their objective.
The amendments were presented to the House by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee prompting his Shadow Minister Deborah Backer to question why the authority to order the police supervision of persons convicted on indictable offences was being moved from the discretion of the High Court to the police.
Prior to this (assuming the amendments will be assented to by the President) the High Court was the sole entity vested with the authority to order police supervision of a person convicted of indictable offences such as rape, incest, paedophilia, felonious wounding and domestic violence among others.
According to Backer, the amendments would be tantamount to state harassment given that the persons, especially first offenders, would have already paid their debt to society.
She also questioned whether the police force was capable of administrating the legislation. “Where is the capacity of the force to supervise?” Supervision, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as, “The action or function of supervising a person, task, etc…”
Backer added that the legislation will lead to frustration and posited that more and more Guyana was moving towards a police state. “You can’t jail away crime.”
The shadow Home Affairs Minister noted that there should be no automatic imposition of police supervision and that was why the authority previously rested with the court which would use its discretion and consider the various factors to make the decision to have the police supervise a person.
She therefore suggested that the idea of imposing police supervision should stay with the courts, adding that the “Amendments were seeking to emasculate the courts.”
Leader of the Alliance for Change, Raphael Trotman told the National Assembly that he supported the legislation on the condition that Minister Rohee informed the house as to what measures/mechanisms would be put in place to achieve the desired goal of preventing crime.
He noted that he was also troubled at the fact that one of the amendments of the legislation was to give the Home Affairs Minister the power to add offences to the list that would attract supervision of convicted persons upon their release.
Trotman added also that some mechanism should be put in place to ensure that someone who genuinely made a wrong decision would not be subjected to the same as hardened criminals.
He drew reference to a case that he was involved in, where a young man in defence of his sister ran home and uplifted his father’s firearm and went back to the group of young men who had offended her.
According to Trotman, by the time he arrived the police were at the scene and arrested him.
The legislation would now provide for him to be supervised upon his release for at least a year.
Human Services Minister, Priya Manickchand, who defended the Bill as a step in the right direction, told the National Assembly that the convict would be subject to police supervision and it would not be mandatory, in that the police would be able to use their discretion.
She added that her Ministry, in anticipation of support of the amendments, took the decision to dedicate staff to work with inmates at the various prisons to determine the ones that were likely to be repeat offenders, and that information would be shared with the police force so that it could determine which prisoners should be under mandatory supervision.
“The aim of the act is to protect the public and do our best to prevent crimes…it is our duty.”
She explained also that most of the offences listed under the legislation that warranted police supervision were crimes committed as a result of a mental illness and statistics have shown that those persons were likely to become repeat offenders.
According to Manickchand, the legislation sought to satisfy the desires of the vast majority of Guyanese. She added that during her ‘Stamp it Out’ consultations, persons even asked for the faces of rapists and child molesters, among others, to be published.
She conceded that there were no guarantees that passing the legislation would automatically reduce crimes but knowing that it bore that possibility, it was the duty of the house to support the legislation.
Rohee, in what was one of his most passionate presentations in the National Assembly, told the House that in order to prevent crimes in Guyana there has to be a start somewhere.
He also debunked Backer’s objections saying that she offered no solutions and was only looking to gain political mileage.
Regarding the issue of the court being vested with the authority to supervise criminals, Rohee said that in the past, the court has never ordered the supervision of anyone.
He also reiterated Manickchand’s point that the legislation was not geared at people taking a stroll in the Promenade Gardens, but rather for criminals who have already been convicted of a heinous crime.
Responding to heckling that crime could not be ‘jailed away’, the Home Affairs said, “We all know that crime cannot be jailed away but we will jail away the criminals….these are people who are wreaking havoc and people want to live in peace.”
He added that there were soft or tough ways of dealing with crime and the country needed tough anti-crime legislation. “This is what the majority of the people want…the wider consideration is protection of the public.”
This, he said, means passing tough laws and “we will do it and oversee their (convicted criminals) actions, many of whom are part of a large criminal enterprise that we want to dismantle.”
The Home Affairs Minister also promised that in future there will continue to be tough legislation.
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