The People’s United Party (PUP) presented some proposals for amendments to both the Firearms and Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act at a press briefing today in Belize City, in addition to some mentioned during the House meeting.
Attorney and Party Communications Director Kareem Musa focused on the bail application process, his argument being that only certain classes of crimes under the act should be restricted.
‘The reason that we propose that the Crime Control and the Criminal Justice Act be amended to say that the charges under which an accused is not granted bail as of right be restricted to: 1. Robbery with a firearm, 2. Aggravated assault with a firearm, and 3. Possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
The first two offenses, robbery with a firearm and the aggravated assault were already in the Act since 2003. You see, there are many offenses under the Firearms Act and the way in which these offenses were just thrown into the Act in 2008. In my opinion, it was just irresponsible in the part of our legislators because many of those offenses in the Firearms Act are not serious nor are they prevalent”.
According to Musa, a proviso in the law will allow Magistrates jurisdiction to grant bail even on the three restricted classes once it is proven, in writing, that there are “special extenuating circumstances,” such as minority, pregnancy and others.
The Party’s legal advisor, Anthony Sylvestre, hit out at the penalties prescribed by the amended Firearms Act that remove jurisdiction from the Magistrate or Judge, citing a recent Caribbean Court of Justice decision that rendered similar sentences unconstitutional.
And PUP Leader Francis Fonseca said the Government cannot afford to wait any longer to change the laws.
“There was a clear signal from the Government yesterday. The Minister of National Security speaking on behalf of the Government, was that they were certainly prepared to look at the law, to revise the law; so, this is our contribution to that work, and I have no reason to believe that that will not be taken into account in good faith. So, the next step for us is that we will submit it to the Ministry of National Security as well as to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General’s Office, and the Solicitor General as our distribution to the discussion- as our recommendation for amending the law”.
The Party intends to submit its proposals to the relevant authorities including the Ministry of National Security and the DPP’s office.