No one should take lightly the huge significance of the convictions in the long-running Klansman trial which ended on Wednesday.
That the police and prosecutors were able to present credible evidence leading to 15 members of this criminal organisation being found guilty by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes is indeed a victory for Jamaica and should encourage law enforcers to pursue people intent on subjecting the country to terror, bloodshed and mayhem.
The trial, which started in September 2021, now provides a template for investigators and the Crown in applying the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) (Amendment) Act, 2021, commonly called the anti-gang legislation, passed in June that year.
The law, which was first introduced in 2014, allows for the prosecution of groups engaged in criminal activities.
We recall Mr Jeremy Taylor, senior deputy director of public prosecutions, explaining during an Anti-Gang Week town hall meeting last November the leverage that the amended law provides to the authorities.
"What has changed with the new legislation is that we no longer have to look at individuals, because up to 2014 we really could only prosecute the individual, irrespective of what other persons may have done, either in the background or foreground. You could only move against the individual in that respect. Now, this new Act allows us to move against groups, and you have seen that we have brought certain groups to trial," Mr Taylor said at the time.
He also pointed out that the law spreads a broad net to facilitate the prosecution of all individuals who are complicit in criminal activities.
"Even if you are not the trigger person, you are the person who drives them to do the crime, you are charged as a facilitator of the criminal offence, just as how if you are the person who shoots the person, you are also charged as the facilitator of the criminal offence," he explained.
The law also makes it clear that anyone who participates in activities that render any benefit to a gang is likewise liable for prosecution. That, we believe, is a crucial provision that, if properly enforced, should strike an almost mortal blow to criminal activity in Jamaica, as it is no secret that gangsters and other criminals are shielded and supported by people across all socio-economic groups.
Those people are no better than the criminals who go about robbing and killing citizens. They are enemies of the State, enemies of all law-abiding Jamaicans. Every effort should be made to prosecute and expose them for the degenerates they are and, crucially, seize their assets in accordance with the law.
At the time the amended Act was passed, police data showed that there were 379 gangs in Jamaica. Of that number, 262 were considered active â€” an increase of five per cent over the year 2019.
The police have also told us that gang violence contributes to an estimated 80 per cent of murders in Jamaica. Dismantling those gangs will not be easy, but the just-concluded Klansman trial gives us hope, as the police, assisted by Jamaica's law enforcement partners in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and members of the European Union, have, over many years, demonstrated a resolve to arrest and prosecute leaders of organised crime and violence.
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