Summary Jurisdiction Offences like criminal defamation, attempted suicide, obeah, to be reviewed- AG

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UK consultant Peter Pursglove

The Attorney General’s Chambers has announced proposals to review Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act after Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams and his team met with UK consultant Peter Pursglove, who is under the Support for the Criminal Justice System Programme (SCJSP).

According to a release from the Legal Affairs Ministry on Monday, Pursglove’s proposed amendments will include the decriminalization of some current offences and the recommendation of alternatives to imprisonment in respect of certain summary offences, especially minor and non-violent crimes.

The AG’s statement references that crimes such as vagabondage, vagrancy, obeah, witchcraft, roguery, criminal defamation and attempted suicide are decriminalized in other countries, adding that such changes have not impacted negatively on public safety.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

It is not clear if public consultations will be carried out for these legal changes. However, the Chambers said that these activities are intended the impact the Criminal Justice System by increasing the use of Alternative Sentencing in the Criminal Justice System.

It was outlined that objectives will be achieved through both amendments to existing legislation and the drafting of entirely new legislation. The statement further observed that many of these offences referenced carry a sentence of imprisonment if found guilty.

“In such cases, decriminalising the behaviour and dealing with it outside the criminal law has not resulted in any negative impact on public safety. Other offences may no longer warrant the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment and may now be dealt with by way of fine or other non-custodial sanctions,” the AG’s Chambers noted.

The Attorney General was quoted saying that a prison sentence is usually an inappropriate sanction, especially for non-violent, minor offenses. He said that various alternatives have been implemented in other jurisdictions, such as bail, seizure of travel documents, periodic reporting to police or other authorities, electronic monitoring or curfews, and conditional and suspended sentences.

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