Though the provisions of the Gang Bill and the Bail (Amendment) Bill were softened somewhat after deliberations of a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee comprising both Government and Opposition MPs, Ramlogan yesterday unveiled a modified set of legislation which still contain severe penalties and – in some cases – novel offences. The legislation was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives at about 6 pm.
The Attorney General noted that parents who “harbour” and “conceal” gang members now face consequences. “We need to protect society from those parents who turn a blind eye and pretend they do not know what is happening in their own homes,” Ramlogan said as he piloted a motion to have the legislation approved by the House of Representatives.
“If the parent is harbouring or if the parent is concealing that child then that parent will be guilty of an offence.” Ramlogan noted that within the last 18 months the number of gangs has moved from 93 to 110, or a 20 percent increase.
The Attorney General noted that there are reports that parents have been facilitating children in relation to the theft of gold jewelry by getting the items pawned. He said parents can often tell when their children are involved in crime by markers such as the acquisition of expensive clothes and footwear.
“We believe that we have to strike the right balance,” he said, saying there was also a need for the police to tackle, “those parents who are actively supporting and participating in crime.”
“If you turn a blind eye or ought to know that the child is involved in crime under your own house then you better watch out!” he warned.
The legislation introduces a penalty of five years imprisonment for parents who harbour children (defined by the legislation as persons under 18 years) and ten years for “concealing” such children in the face of police queries. Additionally, parents charged with offences outlawing gangs also face the possibility of imprisonment without bail for up to 60 days, subject to safeguards.
The legislation, which has a five-year sunset clause which will ensure it is reviewed after that period, allows for any child suspected of gang membership or offences to be detained for up to six days by police without charge. It also allows persons over 18 who are charged to be detained without bail for up to 120 days. Membership of a gang is made a summary offence punishable by ten years imprisonment for first time offenders. Multiple offences will face an indictable offence and 20 years imprisonment. Police officers who aid gangs by leaking information or renting firearms face 25 years imprisonment as do persons who lead gangs.