By Marion Ali
The People’s United Party has, from the onset, rejected the revised Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act, but now it plans to present a proposal for the law’s amendment at the next sitting of the House of Representatives or the Senate.
At a press conference at its party headquarters on Wednesday, Senator Anthony Sylvestre, legal advisor to the PUP, told the media that more than enough time has lapsed since John Saldivar, the Minister of National Security, said that his government would review the law, beginning with national consultations.
The PUP wrote Saldivar in February, said Sylvestre, to remind him of his comment, and attached to that letter a copy of the PUP’s proposed draft amendment, prepared by the party’s legal team. Saldivar, however, has not responded.
The PUP regards the matter as an urgent, because anyone who is present when a police search reveals an illegal weapon or ammunition will be charged and remanded for a mandatory two weeks.
The same fate would befall someone who may have been absent during the time of the search, but happens to live at the address .
The proposed Bill seeks to do three things: 1. Repeal section 6 (A) of the existing law, which deems everyone present during an illegal firearm/ammunition discovery to be in possession;
2.Amend the penalties so that the mandatory minimum five-year prison term is removed and gives the magistrate discretion to sentence convicted persons, based on the evidence, to an appropriate sentence.
The third objective of the proposal is to introduce a section that would allow persons convicted of firearms-related offences who have been sentenced to five years to now have the ability to apply to have the Supreme Court review that sentence.
It also would give the magistrate the discretion to grant bail in extenuating circumstances, such as the person’s age, medical condition, or the evidence or lack thereof upon arraignment.
Sylvestre says that the law in its present form has proven to be no deterrent on gun-related offences since statistics show that people are still being caught with guns almost on a daily basis.
The PUP hopes to introduce the Bill using Standing Order 48, which allows any member of the House or the Senate to introduce a Bill as well as for the first reading of that Bill, once notice has been given. The party hopes to do this shortly.