Stiff penalties proposed under Bail Act for destroying monitoring devices

PEOPLE granted bail on condition that they are tracked by an electronic monitoring device could be fined $1 million and/or imprisoned for one year if they tamper with or attempt to destroy the device.

This is the proposal being put forward by the joint select committee of Parliament now reviewing the proposed Bail Act 2022 after accepting the recommendation that an offence should be created for tampering with or destroying the electronic monitoring device when such a condition has been imposed on a defendant.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, chairman of the committee and Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte said that in addition to examining what exists in other jurisdictions, the local situation was also looked at in determining the penalty for the offence.

“So for every recommendation that we accept or reject, for every provision in the law, there is in fact a proper rationale, and in this case we are guided by how we grade penalties on the monetary side and on the imprisonment side, and also having regard to a replacement cost and a deterrent element,” she said.

Malahoo Forte further argued that if a condition of the bail is that the defendant is geofenced and monitored electronically, “that goes a long way in relieving the prison population, the detention population, and to tamper with that can’t be taken lightly”.

“If persons are ordered to stay within a physical locale, I would imagine that there would be good reason for that, based on the circumstances of the case,” she said.

Opposition committee member Peter Bunting said he had no issue with the proposed penalty, noting that he had looked at the Cayman Islands Act which addresses the issue and thought it was appropriate for application to Jamaica’s situation, but he said the fine of US$600 would be too low.

“I’m not up to date on what an actual monitoring device would cost, but [US$600] doesn’t seem very high relative to the infrastructure for those things. So I would sort of go along the Cayman Islands track, but I think I would make that fine more commensurate with what imprisonment for one year would be,” he said.

Malahoo Forte responded to say that is the adjustment that was made within Jamaica’s penalty scheme.

In the meantime, she said the committee is scheduled to have another three meetings on July 6, 13, and 19 to consider the revised draft of the Act and the report of the committee. She said the goal is to table the report in Parliament by July 25.