‘Designed to disrupt’

THE Government is looking to introduce legislation to increase the penalties for people who issue multiple bomb threats.

Since last Thursday almost 80 bomb threats have been delivered to entities across the island with operations disrupted at 74 schools, one hospital, a courthouse, and a number of businesses. The latest threat on Wednesday disrupted operations at a call centre on Warrington Avenue in New Kingston.

Less than one hour before that threat was delivered minister of national security, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang, told a post-Cabinet media briefing that this level of disruption to the society needs a strong response.

“We will have to look at the legislative framework as because currently I am told that the primary legislation we can charge the individuals, when we find them, is under public mischief. The activity certainly deserves more severe penalties and we will have to examine that as we go forward,” said Chang.

A person charged with the common-law offence of creating public mischief can face a maximum prison term of three years or a fine of $1 million. However, if the threat is sent by cyber communication the perpetrator can be charged with using a computer for malicious communication which could carry a heavier sentence.

But Chang is not satisfied, as he wants people to pay a strong penalty for the bomb threats.

“The legislation does provide some strength, but we think we should strengthen it because where there is a single incident or a mischievous act at play occasionally we would continue, but given the scale of the disruption over the last four days in particular we are examining how we can strengthen that legislation.

“For example, not only are you disrupting the entire education system, putting children at risk, disrupting the economy…all of those are major disruption to the lives of Jamaicans and provide significant threat risks. A part of our anti-crime-fighting strategy is to strengthen legislation and those who are apprehended must be put away for long periods and removed from society,” declared Chang.

He noted that despite suspecting that these threats are hoaxes, the security forces have had to deploy significant resources to each one.

According to Chang, based on the level of the threats, “they were designed to disrupt and create a level of confusion in the society”.

He told the briefing that the people behind the threats are being pursued aggressively and every effort is being made to apprehend them.

“We also have the support of our international partners, that include the FBI [the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation], which has been active in support from day one,” said Chang.

According to the security minister, the Government will have to expand the country’s emergency response team and be prepared for any eventuality.

Chang said additional resources will have to be provided to these emergency response teams, especially in the terms of sniffer dogs, which are imported from overseas to check for bombs.

In the meantime, deputy police commissioner in charge of crime Fitz Bailey told Wednesday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the police are pursuing several leads as they try to apprehend the people behind the bomb threats.

“We have the resolve and commitment to ensure that those persons who are responsible are brought to justice,” declared Bailey as he underscored that local investigators are working with international partners to go after the perpetrators who they believe are very tech savvy.

“In our interactions with our overseas partners, they have also indicated that these individuals are not ordinary people. Some of the information that we have we cannot disclose, but what I will say to the public [is that] we are committed to ensure that those persons who are responsible will be brought to justice,” said Bailey.

In July, 25-year-old truck driver Chevon Flowers, who posted a video on social media saying that there was a bomb at a gas station in Ocho Rios, St Ann, was fined $1 million or nine months in prison for using a computer for malicious communication.

Following a high-level police investigation, Flowers was charged with creating public mischief, using a computer for malicious communications, and extortion.

During his court appearance he pleaded guilty to using a computer for malicious communications and creating public mischief. He pleaded not guilty to extortion.