Legislation coming to provide stiffer penalties for murder

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The Government is moving to prepare legislation that will provide stiffer penalties for murder, says Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.

“My thoughts on the matter, though not yet finalized, is that we should give 30 years minimum for murder. The Minister of Justice has been directed to bring forward these changes immediately,” he said.

“We may not be able to catch this year, but early next year we will be coming to the House with amendments to the penalty for murder,” he added.

Holness was opening the debate on resolutions to extend the States of Public Emergency (SOEs) that were recently declared in several parishes and police divisions islandwide, during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 22).

The SOEs are in the parishes of Clarendon, St. Catherine, St. James, Westmoreland, and Hanover and specified areas of Kingston and St. Andrew.

The Government used its majority to approve the extension, which requires a two-thirds majority.

Holness also informed that the Enhanced Security Measures Act (ESMA) is now being drafted and a Cabinet submission is expected by the end of December for tabling in Parliament early next year.

“This Bill will include provisions for detention, for the establishment of a criminal watch list, and the use of control orders. We have been speaking about the ESMA for a very long time,” Mr. Holness said.

On the matter of the Bail Act, Mr. Holness said a Joint Select Committee has been appointed to review the legislation, which is expected to come into effect early next year.

He said the first committee meeting was held on November 3, and members of the public are being asked to make suggestions regarding the Bill by November 30, 2022.

Meanwhile, Mr. Holness informed that the Fingerprint Act, which was enacted in 1936 to facilitate the identification of criminals, will be reviewed.

“Currently, it is easier to get a DNA sample than it is to get a fingerprint. The Act is old and outdated and it doesn’t contemplate the new technologies that exist,” he said.

He noted that a new Act will be brought to Parliament immediately to be tabled.

“This will be done to expand powers to the courts to order the taking of fingerprints and photographs for several offenses, which were not covered under the old Fingerprint Act,” Mr. Holness said.

The proposed amendments will also expand the offenses scheduled, expand the groups authorized to take fingerprints, extend the time for the retention of fingerprints, and provide for the use of approved modern technology for the electronic taking of fingerprints and the storage of data.

The resolutions to extend the SOEs will be debated in the Senate on Friday, November 25. The Government needs at least one Opposition vote in the Senate to achieve a two-thirds majority.

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