BVI News

Harsh penalties introduced for persons who commit crimes during public emergencies

Members of the UK Armed Forces were deployed to the BVI to provide relief and restore law and ordered immediately after Hurricane Irma in September 2017. (Photo by Davion Smith/BVI News)

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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  1. Umm sorry says:

    But if you have lost your home, food, clothing and all you have, I just don’t see how you are not going to seek out food and clothing. This law makes more victims rather than lift persons out of their plight!

    People were trying to feed and clothe their families after Irma, so it’s hard and indifferent to make them criminals. Everyone loses when there is national emergency like storms.

    Next time why not pass a law to provide food and clothing and shelter to all people affected by the storms for a duration of one year!

    Like 7
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    • Come on says:

      Food, clothing and water is one thing. What about the people looting the jewellery stores and electrical stores. Noone was going to starve, we had food and water all the time. The supermarkets opened very quickly

      Like 45
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    • @umm sorry says:

      That is pure lies – on the 7th of September 2017 people were stealing electronics, jewelry, toys, alcohol, car parts… not food and clothes in desperation…. You were obviously not in Town that morning…

      Like 36
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    • Hmmm says:

      I agree with the person above. There wasn’t any need to loot the jewellery and electronic stores. I think the supermarkets did a good job getting back on their feet and providing services as soon possible.

      I know a lot of people feel justified in what they did but I think more was stole that day than just physical goods. The looting harmed the trust we had in one another; not just between the store owners and the public but between expat and locals. Just look at all the accusations that come whenever the looting is brought up. The looting also affected our sense of security and out peace of mind.

      Like 24
    • Hear dis one... says:

      Who are you? So leaving excretion (i.e. s**t) in my family’s store was seeking food n shelter you backside? Boy if I was home when that c**p was happening is a straight cutlass…..

  2. millie says:

    Does that mean if the crimes are committed when there is no public emergency, the punishment would be more lenient? And if the answer is no, why make it specific to public emergencies?

    Like 8
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  3. son of the soil says:

    It was those darm island people who did most of the looting with their nasty habbits

    Like 11
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    • From where? says:

      BVIslanders are island people or are they not? And, if you are saying that it was all expats from other islands, can you verify your assertion?

      As I see it, you might as well impose death by hanging because laws here are very poorly enforced. When they are, there are problems with prosecution, lost evidence etc. And even if not, judges don’t seem to want to apply the law. Just look at folks that recently got caught with firearms…slaps on the wrist with a wet noodle.

      Like 22
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    • Son of Sam says:

      At least you had the decency to accept some of the looting was done by your people..

      If you feel so strongly about the island man, why not start a movement and get particular action taken to relieve your concern of them.

      I mean did they do something to you or yours? One like you should be on radio stating what you want to see happen in the VI with the island man.

      It’s your right to make things clear, what is your position on the island man? Should they go home, like your elders use to say?

      Like 2
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    • Check yourself says:


      This person is a troll trying to work yall up and create division.

      That person is not serious and probably is not a “son of the soil”

      Just another idiot trying to stir up trouble.

  4. Citizen X says:

    Oh I see. So where is the law that will crack down harder on criminals who are caught with guns and ammo? Cause when they were out gunning down our people including a child…we didn’t hear squat from you about that SMH

    Like 20
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  5. Not so ...... says:

    Law is good, but if the general populace is not advised of it prior to hurricane season and any coming events the criminals will not know anything until they are brought before the courts. The country needs to be advised often of such penalties so it is well known what one faces for taking advantage like a few did after Irma and during Maria.

    Like 3
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    • huh? says:

      so you need to be reminded that stealing is a crime?

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      • Pat says:

        I think the point is that this government did not declare the state of emergency till days after when communication was already lost. That was the real failure of vision so the police could not hope to control the flow of people. A state of emergency should be declared before the hurricane hits so roads are clear for emergency travel only.

  6. Guest says:

    Ohh so scary the retards set the terms as “not exceeding” – translation persons can walk away with as little as a month because there is no mandatory minimum which is what the BVI likes to do. They do it in case their own or them cousin child screw up they don’t get the supposed harsh penalties. That’s because at sentencing it will be at the discretion of the judge who will then be swamped with character testimony from every businessman, businesswoman, politician and God parent who has not seen the child since they were in primary school but will give testimony about their current character ????……….

    Like 11
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  7. Good One. says:

    Well needed. I applaud the govt for this. What happened after Irma was appalling to say the least. I really think the police could have done more. I dont agree they were helpless. And the blogger who said that persons were without food and shelter. That was no excuse. There are avenues for that. Everybody was hurting. You going still kick a man when he down. Disgraceful!

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  8. oh yeah boy says:

    I hope it is retroactive to 2017.

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  9. Ok and says:

    What about consumers protection law, gas price was high right d—a, one mark, r— way and other shop had there food so expensive. As a law abiding citizen what you the government is going to do about this you can not be one sided

  10. Eagle eye says:

    The looting begond when word was the other category 5 was coming on Sunday while people had already lost their homes clothes and food on Thursday.

    Like 9
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  11. @Hmmm says:

    Stop condoning wrong. The ones that were looting was a bunch of F….ng idiots. I left my home for one day to check on my parents and those F….ng animals break into my home and had a field day in my home, they even took the generator. Funny thing, I had some food and bottle water and they left that behind. Straight Talk, the Santos and Jam Downs were taking people S..t and shipping it back home to their Countries.

    Like 13
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  12. Well sah says:

    And they wouldn’t tighten up on gum law which agurably causes a grater degree of damage towards the social fabric. Millions goes unaccounted for and dear you call it as you you see it when it come to the bullies. The nerve to run for another term.

  13. @Eagle eye says:

    Watch when the next one hit, ain’t go be nothing left for anyone to steal/loot. Everything is going to be gone. The looters took advantage of the situation.

    Like 6
    Dislike 1
  14. Vislander Maryland says:

    The riots that Baltimore City had in 2015 the looters took advantage of the situation and went wild breaking into stores stealing. The tax payers is the ones paying back for the lost. A lot of the looters is serving jail time because the fools were seen on TV hauling things away,people recognize them and turned them in.

    Like 3
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  15. ndp/vip heckler says:

    what about laws for thiefing politicians?

  16. Think! says:

    The laws currently in place should have been applied and they were not.We do not need more laws just enforce the ones on the books. If the police could not stop an event, take pictures and capture later.

    I still feel so bad for the companies that always help the community and then were looted as has been said above.

    Gov’t needs to move with caution because a state of emergency could have been called with the big March to Gov’t House and then what.

  17. I see says:

    Maybe I didn’t get the memo yet but is there a law preventing store owners from doubling and trebling their prices in the event of emergencies, just to take advantage of vulnerable people, including the store owner who is a politician? If there is such a law, good. If not, what the h**l you waiting for?

  18. ghutty says:

    the goverment is the one to blame for all this. the reasons why are..knmowing that a cat 5 storm was goingt o hit directly, they didnt call off work not anything. they had ppl working up to their regular hours and no one had time to prepare instead business was going on as usual. when the storm was heading to antigua, a state of emergency was implemented the sunday before. they had time to secure, what did we have? no matter howmuch storm past here, we never got that day before to prepared until maria was about to hit and that was due because of what irma did. the leaders of this island need to take storms more serious than anything. never am island shutdown when storm is coming but all you can hear, the storm is not coming etc. thats why irma hit us so bad. i guaranteed if landlords took the time to board up etc, we might have had less damage but all they about is stretching their hands at the end of the month.

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