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Legislation to block illegal construction

New legislation: Crystal Caeasr outlined punishments for developers

Amendments to block illegal construction and make the legal aid system more efficient have been approved by senators.

Crystal Caesar, the home affairs, economic development and tourism junior minister, said the Development and Planning Amendment Act was designed to deal with developers building before planning permission is granted.

The new legislation will allow the Department of Planning to slap fines of up to $100,000 or two years in prison.

Justin Mathias, OBA senator, said the Opposition supported the legislation, although he did raise concerns about wording in the Bill which suggested it would allow action against long-completed projects.

Ms Caesar explained the Act would not affect breaches that occurred before this year.

She said: “We are not going to be retroactively trying to make criminals out of people.”

In a later debate on the Legal Aid Amendment Act, Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, told the Senate that legislation would cut the costs of the legal aid programme.

She said the Act would give more work to in-house legal aid lawyers, which would help contain expenses.

Ms Simmons added the Government had already budgeted to increase the number of lawyers in the legal aid department to handle the higher workload.

She added that demand for legal aid had increased as the island faced economic hardship and fewer people were able to afford legal representation.

Michelle Simmons, an independent, said the move should bring a significant reduction to the cost of the department.

She added: “I would suggest that they keep close tabs on how many cases are going to be supported in this way and look closely to see if three in-house counsel, in addition to what they already have, will be sufficient.”