Laws would soon be introduced to make it mandatory for gun-toting criminals to receive strokes if found guilty.
Minister in the Ministry of National Security Subash Panday yesterday said by early next week two specific bills were expected to be introduced in Parliament making it absolute for convicted criminals to receive corporal punishment:
He identified the bills as:
�2 Amendment to Offences Against The Person Act Chapter 11 (8); and,
�2 amendment to the Larceny Act, Section 24.
The bills, according to Panday, were aimed specifically at tackling gun-related crimes and sought to reduce the influx of illegal firearms from the streets. According to Panday, if a person is found guilty of grievous bodily harm by using a firearm he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. He said If someone also was found guilty of robbery by using a firearm he could face a maximum of 15 to 20 years in jail. Strokes, however, according to the present law, could only be given if the judge saw it fix, Panday explained. He said: "As it is now it is up to the discretion of the judge to administer strokes.
"But we want to change that as soon as possible and to make it compulsory for strokes to be administered as part of the punishment," a tough-talking Panday said during an interview yesterday. Saying he was working with Attorney General Anand Ramolgan to "finetune" the bills, Panday said he was expected to meet with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to have further discussions on the bills.
He added: "The attorney general and myself still have our work cut out and we will be working on the bills throughout the week. "But we are adamant in eradicating illegal guns from the streets. Once we make a dent in that it would go a long way in reducing many serious crimes, including homicides," Panday assured.
At the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing last Thursday, Government introduced three bills – the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, the Bail (Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Gang Bill – also to tackle crime.
Senior counsel Dana Seetahal has expressed concern that the proposed bills may arise in a conflict in the separation of powers between the state and the judiciary. Seetahal pointed out that while Parliament prescribed the laws it was the judiciary that was in charge of sentencing and hence to impose the necessary punishment required.
She said: "It appears that for Parliament to mandate to a court to give corporal punishment there would be a conflict of the separation of powers. "The right to determine what the specific sentence in a given matter is the prerogative of the court only, so I wonder how this would work?" Seetahal questioned. She said, however, there was one exception where in the case of murder the penalty was already "set" and that was death.