…after government removes time limit
The People’s National Congress Reform on Wednesday withdrew its motion that sought to have the legislation catering for and supervising community service as a punishment for a minor offence committed as against imprisonment.
The motion was piloted by PNCR frontbencher, Deborah Backer, and withdrawn by the party’s chief whip Lance Carberry after the government used its majority in Parliament to remove the time limit for bringing the proposed legislation to House.
Carberry told the House that the motion was meaningless without the time limit and as such the party wished to withdraw it.
The time limit was removed by way of an amendment tabled by Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, who told the House that such legislation was a significant undertaking and required a lot of consultation among other related activities and the time line set by the opposition made such undertaking impossible.
Backer, in her contribution to the motion, said that the current forms for punishment catered for by law were death, imprisonment, fines, compensation, bonds, whipping and floggings, and reprimand and discharge.
She noted that there is Extra Mural Work Order that caters for community service but it leaves much to be desired. The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act makes vague reference to alternative sentencing but it is grossly underutilised.
She noted that measures must be put in place to cater for non custodial sentences that would benefit all and sundry.
She said that in the Justice Sector Reform Strategy there is mention of non custodial sentence and that the motion was in keeping with modernizing the nation’s laws.
According to Backer, the non custodial sentencing would also help to reduce the overcrowding in prisons and would avoid the creation of more hardened criminals.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Civic member, Anil Nandlall told the House that he was of the view that community service, as penal sanction for certain types of offences, is an attractive and progressive sociological and jurisprudential concept.
He said, however, that when he makes a presentation in the House, he represents a constituency and it is that constituency’s views that must be presented.
He told the House that the necessary consultations to solicit the views of the populace were not done as yet.
He said that the government is cognizant of the fact that the introduction of community service orders as a permanent feature of the criminal justice system can convey the erroneous impression and can send the mistaken signal that this Government is relaxing its position on the issue of crime and criminality.
Nandlall thus pointed out that it, “It therefore behooves the Government to proceed cautiously on this issue and in so doing to consult widely with our people, not only to solicit their views, but also to inform and edify them in respect of the reasons and rationale for implementing such a measure and the benefits which can be derived.”
The PPP Member of Parliament also reminded the House that Guyana is a poor country with limited financial and other resources.
“The justice system in Guyana requires huge amount of resources which we do not have…We therefore must be careful as to how we spend our limited resources…We don’t want another white elephant.”
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee told the House that Backer was trying to pre-empt the work of the National Commission on Law and Order given that the commission was already addressing the issue of community service.
He was adamant that the issue was not as simple as suggested. Rather, it was very complicated with various legal and social implications that must be tediously addressed first.
He noted that it was impossible for all the necessary groundwork prior to introducing such legislation was impossible prior to the July 2009 time limit sought by Backer in the motion.
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