Stiff penalties are being introduced to the territory’s law books for persons who commit crimes during periods of public emergency such as a natural disaster.
This is being done through an amendment to the territory’s Criminal Code legislation.
Under the proposed amendments, a person who assists a prisoner to escape custody during or after a period of emergency is liable on summary conviction (at the Magistrate’s Court level) to a term of imprisonment not less than five years.
If convicted on indictment (at the High Court level), the offender is liable to a prison term not exceeding 10 years.
“If you engage in a riot, you’re liable upon conviction to a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000. And if you forcibly enter someone’s property, you’re liable upon conviction to a term not exceeding eight years and to a fine not exceeding $8,000,” said Deputy Premier Dr Kedrick Pickering while citing some of the penalties mentioned under the proposed amendment.
“We are basically trying to send a clear message that law and order must be [kept] and that citizens should be made to feel safe even after a major storm, after emergencies,” Dr Pickering said.
Law will cause ill-intentioned persons to ‘think twice’
Government introduced the legislation, which is titled the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2018, in lieu of the widespread looting that knocked the territory after Hurricane Irma last September.
“I, personally, on the morning after the storm, was surveying the community in the presence of the police officers and they were almost helpless to be able to stop the looting, the burglarizing, and the carrying on that was taking place. I think all of us are fully aware that there are businesses that have not been able to recover because of the widespread looting that took place,” Dr Pickering said while declaring his support for the amendment.
Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who presented the amendment to the House, described it as a measure that will cause persons “to think twice” before committing anti-social and criminal activities when there is a state of emergency in place.
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