Opposition questions Govt’s rush to amend police bill

An Opposition legislator is questioning the current “rush” by Government to give police enormous powers to impose curfews and upend Barbadians’ constitutional rights.

In a measured but highly concerning tone, Senator Wilfred Abrahams today presented a strong argument to his Senate colleagues for an immediate halt to the pending legislation that would increase the powers of police to impose up to a 48-hour curfew in any district or area in Barbados.

In fact, Abrahams, a former president of the Bar Association, urged the Senate to “withdraw the bill for consultation” and not to “act with haste and regret it later”.

The Police Amendment Bill 2017, which has passed in the Lower House, will allow lawmen to, among other things, cordon areas, impose curfews restricting the movement of people, and significantly increase the power of cops to enter homes to carry out searches and other investigative operations.

Under the legislation, only a police officer with the rank of inspector or higher could cordon an area to conduct investigations such as searches of vehicles, and the 48-hour curfew of a district or parish requires the approval of the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General.

Insisting there were clear reasons why these powers only existed in the Emergency Powers Act and required a two-thirds majority of Parliament or the entire Cabinet’s nod of approval, Abrahams said he was not convinced the planned amended legislation was even necessary.

The Opposition senator insisted he was not trying to protect criminals or hinder the police in their efforts to fight crime. However, he questioned the rush to pass the law in the dying days of the current administration.

In his contribution to today’s debate, Abrahams also warned the possibility existed where a future Commissioner of Police who did not have the high level of integrity of the current holder of the office could “perversely use” this power being given to him or her through the amendment.

Slamming the absence of consultation with stakeholders such as the Bar Association and non-governmental organizations, Abrahams likened the bill to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant.

Noting that Parliament is due to be dissolved on March 5, he explained that in such circumstances, the Government of Barbados would be the Cabinet.

“I am concerned about the safety of people but there is already legislation to deal with circumstances that can arise. The reason why the words ‘state of emergency’ spark certain [feelings] is [it] involves the suspending of the Constitution and suspending the constitutional rights of citizens.

“It is as serious a situation as it comes for the police to cordon off a neighbourhood, a district, a parish or a country . . . . You are suspending the rights that Barbadians expect that they would have and in that circumstance, those powers . . . should only be invoked in the most serious of circumstances and run the gamut of all the checks and balances provided by the constitution.”

Abrahams maintained “it would be an error” to take the powers of a state of emergency and put them into another piece of legislation “activated solely by the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General”.

According to the Senator he, like other citizens, was concerned about increasing crime but he was not prepared to sacrifice his constitutional rights, particularly in circumstances where just two people would have the power to suspend citizens’ constitutional rights without the oversight of two thirds of Parliament or the Cabinet.

Abrahams raised the concerns even though Government Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, in leading off debate on the proposed amendment in the Upper House today, said there was no reason to fear abuse of power by police officers, who are to have full legislative cover to effect stop-and-search operations, including the search of vehicles under the Police (Amendment) Bill 2017.

Byer-Suckoo pointed out that in the cases where an area must be cordoned off, it could only be done by a senior officer, while a 48-hour curfew could only be instituted through consultation between the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police.

“This [bill] is something that police have advised would allow them to better carry out their functions. They are from time to time called to respond to serious crimes. They have from time to time carried out stop-and-search procedures and may not have been authorized under the law to do so.

“The police have deemed that this is a process that could be useful as they try to identify the perpetrators of crime; and that they have the ability to stop and search and cordon off an area,” Byer-Suckoo told the Upper House.

Explaining some of the additions to the current laws, she said the Commissioner of Police in consultation with the Attorney General would have the power to institute a curfew for certain fixed periods so that the Force “can go in and get the evidence that they need and allow them to be better able to identify those persons responsible” for criminal activity.

“The amended legislation includes a definition of curfew meaning the imposition of a requirement for persons living in a particular area to only enter the premises in which they reside by a specified time and remain indoors for a specified period,” Byer-Suckoo explained to her Senate colleagues.

She also pointed out that the amended laws allow for the closure of businesses in the affected area and the ending of social gatherings for a specified time.

The legislation also addresses the matter of offensive weapons. Therefore, any firearm found in the Firearms Act is now so categorized in the Police Amendment Bill 2017 as well as flick knives, ratchet knives, switch blades, cutlasses, machetes or “any other article made or adapted to use for causing injury to a person or intended by a person having it for such use”.

“There is also a definition for serious violence through the use of a firearm or offensive weapon which results in a disturbance of the peace, serious bodily harm or death and includes multiple aggravated burglaries or multiple offences committed by a group of persons in an area,” the minister acknowledged.

“With the amendment, police now have the authority to stop and search a person where that officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person whom he or she is stopping has committed an arrestable offence, is committing an arrestable offence or is about to commit an arrestable offence; also to stop and search a vehicle which that officer has reasonable suspicion was used in the commission of an offence, will be used in the commission of an offence or is being used in the commission of an offence,” she added.

21 Responses to Alarming!

  1. Jennifer January 31, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Wilfred boy them like they know something you don’t .

  2. Kevin February 1, 2018 at 12:12 am

    It not alarming. We have been calling for the police and AG to do about the spate of gun related crimes especially. So good.

    • Desolate February 1, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      smiling do you know a neighbourhood that only have criminals? Or do you realise that law abiding citizens will be affect by this legislation?

      We dont make guns in Barbados, proper management of our port of entry will be a better option.

      Jobs for the unemployed will also be a better option.

  3. Pat Clarke February 1, 2018 at 1:14 am

    I want the police to get tough with criminals and stop playing with them. We need to send a strong message to criminals that their crap will not be tolerated. The reason criminals do the things they do is because they know they can get away with it. We need a Guantanamo Bay here in Barbados, the current prison is not enough. We can use Dodds for those who commit crimes like stealing but we need a Guantanamo Bay for those who want to use guns like they are spoons. With that said we must remember that some people want to crack heads and we have to hope that this is not their way of planning for heads to be cracked. Let’s be vigilant. I don’t know what it is about politics that will make people do anything to stay in power. This is where I like the American system. Two terms and you are gone whether you like it or not. Give someone else a chance to do what you could not do in ten years. It baffles me why politicians fight so hard to hold on to power even when they know they are not good at what they do. I heard a priest and some others recently stating that Christians should not get involved in politics but I question the sense in that. You don’t want Christians involved in politics but when you vote the devil and his angels in to office and they are doing what they are supposed to do then you calling for Christians to pray. Pray for what? Pray will not make the devil do good so we would all be wasting time praying. That’s my take. People believe that Christians getting involved in politics will cause them to lose their sanctification but I say if you are a Christian (not one who pretends to be a Christian) then you would do what you know is right for your country and your people knowing that you have a God to answer to one day. I would say to Mr. Abrahams, if what this current Government legislates is not in keeping with what is right for the country and its people then you can do like Mr. Trump – repeal when you are the Government.

  4. luther thorne February 1, 2018 at 1:44 am

    “”””””want the police to get tough with criminals and stop playing with them. We need to send a strong message to criminals that their crap will not be tolerated”””””””

    Pat Clarke
    You speak sense
    Let me say that
    PUBLIC FLOGGINGS is the only thing to STOP the crap

  5. Ron February 1, 2018 at 3:04 am

    As a former policeman I am in agreement with Senator Abrahams. These amendments are far reaching and unnecessary at this time, the Police are adequately dealing with crime and criminals. we cannot allow the fear of crime to turn this island into a police state, I know what can happen the innocent must be protected in pursuit of a few misguided persons.
    State of Emergencies are very serious restrictions on a population and we must be careful who we give authority to impose
    such measures.

  6. Roverp February 1, 2018 at 6:08 am

    Why now just before elections?

  7. Hamilton Hill February 1, 2018 at 7:30 am

    @ Pat Clarke….ask yourself this question. Why at this the eleventh hour of a dying administration this necessity is now recognized?Given the myriad of missteps taken by this trial and error bunch I say WE CUD WAIT TILL WE GET A REAL GUVMUNT.

  8. Natalie February 1, 2018 at 7:31 am

    What are we not being told? Why now? Yes, crime is on the increase and at a startling level, but as is stated in this article by the Opposition Senator there are a,ready mechanisms to deal with the need to pursue serious crimes and investigations via the Emergency Powers Act, so why is this amendment even necessary? This makes me nervous about exactly how far a possibly well-intended but careless law enforcer could go in infringing my rights and the rights of others. If there is an emergency powers act, use it, for emergency situations that require stop and search etc. as intended. What are not being told about an increased spate of crime that maybe is being anticipated? What is the government preparing for??

  9. Bajan boy February 1, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Pat Clarke this is not about crime fighting. This is about giving an Attorney General we for for 8 years slept on the job now ready to go no legacy so try a thing. Give me some power..I can control the elections and even try to their it…

  10. hcalndre February 1, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Remember these words; Those who Sacrifice their Liberty for Security deserves neither. There is a talk about cracking heads and would be looking for an excuse to do so. In the past they were JPs that sign warrants without any knowledge of the law, I hope those days are gone and only people that have some knowledge of the law that would question the reason for the search. About the stop and search is a dangerous ground they are treading and if they will stop me because of the model vehicle that I`m driving and then want to search it without a warrant is another problem where I know the police or the occupants end up dead. What are reasons for this government wanting a police state so urgently? the police already have the authority to carry out the necessary actions.

  11. Donild Trimp February 1, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I agree with this legislation. It is long overdue.

    It is nonsensicle to oppose meaningful legislation and this is meaningful legislation.

    I have advocated for this type of legislation for a long time and I am absolutely please with the Government’s position on this issue.

    Mr. Abrahams and some of the posters here are putting forward an idiotic argument against this legislation for the simple reason that the authorities must nip the lawlessness creeping into Barbados by the bud.

    A breath of fresh air to see the Barbados Government doing something right for a change. Better to be pro-active than to be re-active when it is too late.

    People will hate me for this but I don’t give a rats ass what any of you think. When it comes to doing something good for the majority of Barbadians, I support the effort and will power of whoever is doing it. This time it is the DLP and I solute them.

    I do not want Barbados to become like Jamaica and Trinidad where the authorities are now powerless, useless and corrupt. This legislation will make sure that will not happen. All you idiotic people who oppose this legislation, Jamaica and Trinidad welcomes you with open arms.


  12. Ossie Theophilus Moore February 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Fellas I gine finish up me house boat in a jiffy!! ’cause I is a man like me freedom, don’t tell me I can’t left me house when I want ? I got to check pun me marjoram and thyme plot and meck sure me okras ready!

  13. Greengiant February 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    @Ron: No pun intended, but maybe that’s why you are now a former police officer.

    We are in very serious times, criminals are evolving, organized crime has entered our country in a very serious way, we have the entrance into our communities of some regional elements with the connections, we have some regional companies and business people with serious connections here in our space.

    After serving in a British dependent territory for years, and working with a leading multinational crime fighting organization both you, the senator, and some Barbadians are very wrong with your accusations and suspicions. Our law enforcers need the legal backing to do what’s needed should the occasion arise. Some of you are the very people who will say the government were asleep at the wheel if the day should come and the police are caught napping.

    While I don’t support any of the two leading parties, am one for real change to occur in our land, and prefer to see a coalition government representing the people’s interest. This government can’t be wrong about everything they do, or decision they make. History has very often proven the leadership of the D L P right when unpopular decisions are made. That’s the history of the
    D L P, and we can’t take that away regardless of their current failings.

  14. Carson C. Cadogan February 1, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Barbados ranked 30 out of 113 countries on rule of law,

    World Justice Project
    Rule of Law index

    Region: Latin America & Caribbean

    Income Group: High

    Overall Score Regional Rank Income Rank Global Rank
    0.65 2/30 28/35 30/113

  15. Carson C. Cadogan February 1, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    This is simply a situation that whatever the Govt. does the Barbados Labour Party will oppose it.

    The Govt. acts positively, the opposition reacts negatively. That is to be expected.

    If he had said anything different I would have been surprised.

  16. Kwame February 1, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Well ur making a couple assumptions here one is that the government is acting positively. I believe that’s just the debate here. Many are saying they are not and also they are doing it in the right way. Also are we saying that do to fear of being labelled as opposing cause ur in opposition that a person who was a lawyer before he was an opposition senator, that a person who was the youngest president of the Barbados bar association BEFORE he was an opposition senator should see something is his more than qualified expert opinion that is not right and say nothing. He is there that when he sees something that will have a negative and adverse affect on the country to speak out otherwise why are any of them in parliament. He’s protecting the ppl by speaking out against this proposed action. That’s what proper representation of the ppl is. So instead of blanket statements that don’t help anyone maybe we should listen and find away to amend the proposal so that it benefits the country. His suggestions can enhance the entire thing and possibly avoid calamity later down. Or do we follow this current government’s lead like in the issue of the South coast sewage disaster and dismiss warnings because it came from someone on then other side of a room. Are youbsugesstong discriminating against a legal expert and former bar association president just cause he is an opposition senator?

    • Carson C. Cadogan February 1, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      He is blinded by his political aspirations. He is opposing for opposing sake. As an opposition Senator he is loathe to support anything put forward by the Govt which his party is fighting tooth and nail to replace. Supporting anything the Govt. proposes is seen by him as treason to his political party no matter how useful the proposal is to the country.

  17. milli watt February 1, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    this is trouble………..very uncomfortable with this ability to lock down a section of the country on the say so of the po po and AG. As much as I support the RBPF I can’t support this

  18. Donild Trimp February 1, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    BT Today deleted my post responding to this article.

    A bunch of bury your heads in the sand editors at BT Today.

  19. Donild Trimp February 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Thanks for eventually putting up my post BT.

    Withdrawal of “head in the sand comment” is appropriate from me at the time.


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