SG wants enforcement of criminal sanctions for unlicensed teachers under proposed JTC Bill
SOLICITOR General (SG) Marlene Aldred has warned that without enforcement there will be no push for teachers to desist from the practice of leading classes without the requisite licence or authorisation when the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill takes effect.
Under Clause 24 of the proposed legislation, a person who does not comply with a direction to cease practising as a teacher and continues to teach without a licence or authorisation to teach commits an offence and is liable on conviction, in a parish court, to a fine not exceeding $500,000.
But during deliberations on the clause in a sitting of the joint select committee on the proposed JTC Bill on Wednesday, Aldred argued that the mere threat of criminal sanction will not be enough to ensure compliance.
“If you have weak enforcement, you’re going to have a problem. We are looking at other regulatory bodies for other professions and we don’t see anything similar.
“I would suggest that perhaps the focus should be on trying to enforce the provisions to ensure that only licensed persons are teaching, and that would be on the regulatory body to ensure that the licensed teachers are teaching. And if that is not the case, the regulatory body must take action. It’s enforcement that really acts as the deterrent, it’s not so much just the threat of a sanction,” said Aldred.
She told the committee that for the provision to work, the JTC — the proposed regulatory body for the teaching profession — must ensure strong enforcement to keep teachers in check.
Pointing to other parliamentary committees for which the focus is on increasing penalties, the solicitor general noted that sometimes the issue is not the penalties but more to do with proper enforcement.
“Recall also that there is a provision in the Bill that [it] is to be reviewed by a joint select committee of Parliament within five years. I would suggest you perhaps consider going with the provision, where you focus on the teacher, where the committee will encourage the regulatory body to ensure that they enforce the provisions and then we see how it works, because there will be a review,” added Aldred.
Committee member, Government Senator Kavan Gayle, sided with the solicitor general, but he argued that the challenge would be how to pursue the enforceability.
“We know what we intended to pursue. It’s just that we can’t find the right construct and application, and you don’t want to draft a legislation that has imbalances or it is unfair,” said Gayle.
In the meantime, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Foreman pointed out that there is currently no regime for sanctioning a teacher who is not registered or licensed.
He noted that when the new Act comes into effect, the failure of people to regularise themselves will expose them to criminal sanction as now applies with other professional organisations.
According to Foreman, that possibility of a criminal sanction could have the effect of deterring an unlicensed person from continuing in their ways without regularising themselves.
The deliberations on Wednesday also saw committee members agreeing that they would backtrack on the revised provision to penalise both the teacher and the principal if the teacher is found to be teaching without a licence.
The members decided that the principal would not be liable if this is the case as the onus should be on the teacher to comply.