JUSTICE Minister Delroy Chuck has issued a warning to communities which remain silent on crime that the Government will be bringing charges for the offence of misprision against those who fail to give up criminals.
Speaking in the House of Representatives Tuesday, where he outlined Government’s plans to significantly increase mandatory minimum sentences for persons found guilty of murder under the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA), Chuck said the Government intends in its overhaul of the law to impose penalties on those who can be proven guilty of misprision.
“If we can demonstrate that persons in communities are aware of these killers, then those persons may well be charged with misprision. Far too many communities are really protecting the killers and the ‘violence producers’, and it is about time that communities recognise that in protecting the killers and believing they are Robin Hood, they are really engaging in a suicide pact because in protecting the criminals they are encouraging people to attack that community, which is exactly what is happening across Jamaica,” he said.
Chuck said residents must be bold enough to use the appropriate channels to report murders and other acts of criminality, including scamming. He stressed that Parliament is doing its part, and so should ordinary citizens.
“We are being overwhelmed by heartless criminals — yes, we must catch them, but when you catch them you must impose severe penalties. There is a provision known as misprision where persons who know about these killers turn a blind eye,” he said.
He was responding to a call from Kingston East Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell to pump more resources into digging out criminals.
“We want to appear tough, we want to ensure that the penalties fit the crime, but for me the greater emphasis firstly must be to catch the criminals. Bail and sentences and penalties will only arise after you catch them. There really ought to be a lot more resources placed in detecting, investigating, [and] in the use of the tools that are now available in modern society, to have sufficient evidence,” Paulwell said.
Paulwell noted that with communities gripped by fear, and people reluctant to come forward, the Evidence Act can be used to secure far more information than sole reliance on persons who witness or are aware of a crime, to speak up.
“We have to find ways and means to be able to catch these culprits,” he said.
At the same time, the MP urged that the amendments to the OAPA be referred to a joint select committee to ensure that the voices of stakeholders are included, and that there is public buy-in.
– Alphea Sumner