AS with the Gun Court, under the proposed Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act or anti-gang Legislation cases will be tried without preliminary examinations or committal proceedings, and in the presence of a single judge without a jury.
This is one of several changes to the original 2011 anti-gang/Organised Crime Bill entitled The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Gangs and organised Criminal Groups) Act 2011 approved last month by the Cabinet.
The full list of Cabinet changes are:
* To eliminate the distinction and separation between criminal gangs and organised criminal groups and instead, to utilise the single all-encompassing term of "criminal organisations";
* To revise accordingly the definition of criminal organisations and associated offences and penalties;
* To ensure that the proposed penalties for offences related to criminal organisations include the penalties previously recommended in relation to both "organised criminal groups" and "criminal gangs" to provide the court with a full range of sentencing options;
* To eliminate aggravated penalties for offences where "the offence is committed within 300 metres of a public or private school, or any other educational institution", except for offences related to the forming, attempting to form, or recruitment for a criminal group, as proximity to educational institutions is not a relevant aggravating feature in relation to the other offences; and
* To adjust the proposed trial procedure, such (as in the case of the Gun Court) the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear and determine offences under this Act, not only shall be exercised by a judge sitting without a jury, but also that there shall be no need for preliminary or committal proceedings.
The Bill is aimed, among other things, to support the dismantling of criminal gangs in Jamaica with a view to curtailing the high incidence of crime and violence.
There is still no indication as to how soon it will be ready for tabling by Minister of National Security Peter Bunting.
Opposition Senator Robert Montague, acknowledging that there is every likelihood that the Bill will miss another of the many timelines set by Bunting since February 2012, tabled a motion in the Senate on Friday recalling that it was among the 32 Bills Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, in his Throne Speech last May, promised would be passed during the current session of Parliament, which ends on March 31.
Montague suggested, in his motion, that the Senate makes itself available, "and do everything within its power including the addition of sittings and extension of time" to allow for the enactment of the Act.
Following the assumption of power by the current Administration in early 2012, Delory Chuck, the Opposition spokesman on national security and justice, expressed disappointment about the delay, noting that the Bill was among a number of others that were ready to be tabled in Parliament but were being held up by the new Administration.
He criticised Bunting last February for failing to table key crime-fighting legislation in Parliament, including the Anti-Crime and DNA Bills.
However, Bunting explained that the legislation was being reviewed, because of concerns raised by the police about its likely effectiveness.
"The police had very serious concerns that it would not be effective," Bunting said.
The minister promised that the Bill would be tabled within three months. However, nearly a year later it is still outstanding.
Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington believes that the Bill is critical to the police's efforts to reduce Jamaica's murder rate to within 12 per 100,000 of the population by the year 2017, and restoring citizens' and investor confidence in Jamaica, so that the economy can grow.
He has suggested that it should be tough and effective in cramping the activities of gangs in the country, and that while he appreciated that some people might think that the provisions are draconian, he had to put the national interest first.
But even before Ellington's tough talk, former Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson had suggested that the anti-gang Bill, unlike its predecessors, would come with "teeth".
"It is before Cabinet now, a law called the anti-gang law that has teeth. They are going to discuss it next Monday because that is the law of laws, that is the law that is going to make the (anti-) crime bills look like Sunday school text," Nelson declared in September 2010.
However, nearly 30 months later, the Bill is still not a reality.