Pierre Outlines New Police Powers Under Suppression Of Escalated Crime Bill – St. Lucia Times

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

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On Thursday, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Philip J. Pierre outlined new police powers under the Suppression of Escalated Crime Police Powers bill, a measure he described as ‘extremely serious’.

He said the measure gives police the power to end the situation in Saint Lucia, where a violent crime surge in Vieux Fort recently resulted in seven people being shot dead in separate incidents.

Under the bill, police officers could question people, block a road, set up a cordon, require the removal of a vehicle or other articles, or access land or a building.

In addition, an officer above the rank of Inspector would have the power to close premises and give directions regarding the control of firearms and explosives.

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However, Pierre explained that before the police exercise any powers under the bill, the Minister of National Security must pass an order, essentially a statutory instrument, to designate a particular area as an escalated crime zone.

He told parliament the instrument would prescribe the order’s boundaries and duration.

“In exercising these powers, the bill protects the police officer from the institution of an action, suit or prosecution or other proceedings once the police officer acts in good faith that is in compliance with the bill,” the Castries East MP told parliament.

Escalated crime constitutes serious acts that disturb the peace and threaten life and property.

They include offences against the Anti-gang act, the Drugs Prevention of Misuse Act, the Firearms Act, and offences against persons as outlined in the Saint Lucia Criminal Code.

In this regard, the bill prohibits people from doing anything to interfere with using a road or path or assaulting a police officer while executing his duties.

And the Minister of National Security can arrange for an outside security force to assist the local police in implementing the bill.

“If an offence is committed under the bill, the penalty as provided in the bill is on summary conviction a fine of $50,000 or imprisonment for fifteen years or both, or on conviction or indictment for 25 years imprisonment,” Prime Minister Pierre disclosed.

Earlier, the two opposition MPs in the House, Micoud South’s Allen Chastanet and Choiseul’s Bradley Felix, voted against suspending Standing Order 48:2 to allow Pierre to proceed with the remaining stages of the bill at Thursday’s special sitting of the House.

Ten members on the government side who were present voted in favour.

“Let it be put on the record that when the government of Saint Lucia is trying to put in place legislation to avoid, or to help the police, to empower the police to stop the escalation of crime, the opposition voted against it,” Pierre declared.

“The opposition, led by the member for Micoud South, supported by the member for Choiseul came to this honourable House and voted against the police,” the Prime Minister asserted.

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