Gov't looking at review of INDECOM Act

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, June 17, 2017

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has indicated a need to review the laws under which the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) currently operates.

Speaking at Thursday's opening ceremony for the multilateral summit on “Combating Crime in an Interconnected World”, at the Jamaica Pegasus, New Kingston, the prime minister said that his Government had to find a way to strike a balance, to ensure that the police are motivated, and that criminals don't feel that they can use existing laws for protection.

“Laws protect the innocent, laws must protect human rights, laws must never be in such a way that they can be used as a tool to protect criminals,” he said.

The summit, which ended yesterday, was attended by well-known crime-fighters, including former New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly, and security and international cooperation advisor from Colombia, General Rosso Jose Serrano.

Holness said that the country has to develop a resolve to deal with its gang problem, just as other countries in the region had to find a way to deal with the threats from terrorists.

However, he said that the challenge the political leaders face is how to convince the public that the threat is critical and should be addressed through budget allocations.

“In as much as there may be a public outcry about crime, were we to shift the budget to reflect that and to give national security a 20 per cent or 30 per cent increase in a limited fiscal space, it means that something else would have to be cut, and so the role of the politician is not to be involved in determining the operations (by security forces), but we have to build public understanding to shift the resources to reflect the national threat that crime and particular gangs pose to the country,” he stated.

He said that he believes the public is at a point where they would understand the need to shift more resources to fighting crime to deal with the threat to national security. However, he felt that the challenge is the need to shift legislation as well, to empower the police and the minister to act.

“There is a strong debate, because whenever there is a question of enforcement and intelligence gathering there is the question of human rights and privacy rights,” Holness noted.

He said that the issue, therefore, is how the country can deal with human rights and privacy rights, while protecting the public from criminals, at the same time.

He said that this was especially difficult when the criminals hide within the innocent civilian population, use public financial, communications and transport networks, schools and hospitals, as well as use poor people in the communities to commit crimes.

“That is the challenge. How do we structure laws so that we can separate criminals from law-abiding citizens and target them,” he said.

“We know that there are some very hardened criminals in our society, and they act in ways that confound us. The level of savagery that we see, sometimes we wonder where is the humanity. This State cannot sit by and allow this to continue. It erodes confidence. It creates a negative outlook,” Holness said.

“The State has to act, while we recognise the errors of the past. The State has to be focused, and targeted and targeted and strategic and driven by intelligence on the perpetrators,” he added.

He said that the Government did not want to pull back on INDECOM, but that the commission and the legislation under which it operates needs to be reviewed, like any other new legislation, to ensure that it is not an obstacle to law enforcement.

“So striking that balance is another political challenge that we have to address,” Holness said.

“We have to find a way to ensure that our police are motivated, that they are willing to go out there without worry that after they try to do the right thing, they end up on the wrong side of the law,” he stated.




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