Parliamentary committee rejects new search and seizures powers for police

Parliamentary committee rejects new search and seizures powers for police

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) seems to have suffered another setback in its efforts to have the power of search and seizure of premises without a warrant by the police included in the anti-gang legislation.

A joint select review committee comprised of members from both Houses of Parliament, which reviewed the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, 2014 between October, 2018 and January 28 this year, reported that it has rejected the proposal being included among its proposed amendments.

According to the report, which is listed on the agenda for today's meeting of the House of Representatives, the committee stated that it did not accept the proposal from the DPP for the power of search and seizure of premises with respect to offences under the Act “as the default position”, and the circumstances under which the police would be permitted to search and seize without warrant.

The committee said that during its review, it was suggested that the power of search and seizure of premises should, instead, be a general power rather than being limited to this Act. The committee also said that it was advised of search and seizure provisions, with varied approaches, in other pieces of legislation.

“Your committee does not accept the proposal, but recommends that the power of search and seizure should be a general investigative power of the police that is addressed as a consequential amendment to the Constabulary Force Act. Your committee further recommends that the new provision in the Constabulary Force Act should specifically indicate that it does not override any provision relating to the power of search and seizure that currently exists in other legislation,” the committee noted.

The committee also rejected a proposal from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency (MOCA) for a Jamaica Constabulary Force officer of a particular rank to grant the warrant for search and seizure, in circumstances that would not allow one to go before a parish court judge or a Justice of the Peace (JP).

However, the committee said it took note of a proposal from the DPP for the court or a JP to be able to issue a search warrant, for the offence of murder. The committee did not accept that recommendation, but recommended that an application from a constable for a warrant for search and seizure should be made to, and granted by a JP, “as per the proposed consequential amendment to the Constabulary Force Act”.

Balford Henry

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