Senator Samuda defends Govt's use of mandatory minimum sentences to combat serious crimes

Government Senator Matthew Samuda has hit back at critics of recent moves by the Jamaica Labour Party administration to pass laws with mandatory minimum sentences aimed at locking up dangerous criminals for extended periods.

The new Firearms Act that was passed in October comes with a mandatory minimum sentencing of 15 years for the illegal possession of a firearm and all the way up to life imprisonment for more serious breaches, for example, using the weapon to commit a murder.

The new law acknowledges that the gun is used in nearly 80 per cent of all murders committed in Jamaica.

And Prime Minister Andrew Holness has signalled that with the country’s high homicide rate, the government will soon be tabling legislation that will see convicted murderers facing a mandatory minimum of 30 years behind bars.

While speaking in the Senate on Friday during his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate, Samuda took a swipe at lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) over its criticism of the government’s use of mandatory minimum sentences.

“I unequivocally support the mandatory minimum penalty imposed for gun offences and indeed declare today (Friday) that the mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years behind bars for murders cannot happen soon enough. I'd urge my colleagues on the Executive Branch of the State to continue taking a stand in the interest of law-abiding citizens of Jamaica,” Samuda said.

“We have chosen their side and it is a matter of public record that societies which, among other measures are prepared to send strong messages in terms of its law to deal with violent crime generally are successful in taming the crime monster,” he added.

Samuda said he has taken note of the pushback from some quarters since the prime minister announced that a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years behind bars is being contemplated for people convicted of murder.

“Not surprisingly, there has been the usual pushback from the same stakeholders to the potential solutions to the problem of violent crime. Indeed, Jamaicans for Justice has accused the administration of running the risk of causing the legislature to impose itself upon judicial functions. I strongly disagree with that narrative. In fact, in the context of our high murder rate over many years, it is full time that the Jamaican State via the executive and legislative branches sends a strong message regarding its unwillingness to tolerate slaps on the wrist for people found guilty of perpetrating heinous crimes,” Samuda declared.

He said it was good that the JLP administration “has sent a message to those who bring long lasting pain to law-biding members of society, by imposing a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years for those found in possession an illegal gun.

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