Anti-gang laws to be made permanent
Emergency laws originally designed to rapidly crack down on gangs ten years ago will be made permanent, the Government said yesterday.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said that when gang violence surged in 2012, temporary provisions to the Criminal Code were passed by the House of Assembly.
They made it a crime to instruct someone "to participate in unlawful gang activity“ and increased sentences for offences where unlawful gang activity featured in the criminal activity.
The changes gave the courts power to add between one and five years of prison time for any crimes where it was shown gang activity was included and to increase fines to as much as $10,000 where a fine could also be levied.
Ms Simmons told MPs that originally these measures were not intended to be permanent and had been extended via temporary notices since July 2012.
She said: “When the legislature passed the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2012, the country as a whole could neither accept, nor portend, that society would still be gripped with gang-related criminality such that there would be a continuing need for gang-specific criminal offences and increased penalties.”
But she said the provisions had been extended repeatedly over the past ten years.
She said: “We have no responsible option that allows us to dispense with the attendant provisions, addressing unlawful gang activity, in the foreseeable future.
“With the support of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police, it is our collective view that the intent and utility of these provisions remain crucial to the overall efforts to mitigate against the proliferation of criminal gang activity.
“Thus, after ten years, the use of sunset provisions to effect the policy and legal objectives in question is beyond the life-expectancy the framers had for the 2012 Act.”
She added: “We come to this moment in time, which – regrettably – requires us as legislators to consider the intractability of gang-related crime in Bermuda; despite sustained policing efforts and inventive government-wide policies to dissuade young people from joining unlawful gangs and participating in unlawful conduct.”
The soonest MPs can debate making sections 33A, 70JA and 70JB permanent is in two weeks.