The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
I have heard on several occasions the statement by a Member of Parliament that they will discontinue stop and search by the Police at certain places in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I want to place on record my strongest objection to this. It is unwise. It is a very dangerous thing to try to do and can redound to the destabilisation of the country and the weakening of the law enforcement powers and investigative mechanisms of the Police. In order to fetter the discretion of the Police to stop and search, several laws will have to be amended, changed or repealed. See a few following examples.
Criminal Procedure Code Cap 172 of the Revised Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2009
- Power of police officer to detain, search, etc.
Any police officer may stop, search and detain any vessel, vehicle or aircraft in which or upon which there shall be reason to suspect that anything stolen or unlawfully obtained may be found, or any other thing in respect of which an offence is being or has been committed is to be found, and also any person who may reasonably be suspected of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything stolen or unlawfully obtained or in respect of which an offence is being or has been committed.
Schedule to the Drug Trafficking Offences Act Cap 173 of the Revised Laws of SVG 2009
- Power to search and obtain information
(1) An enforcement officer may search the ship, anyone on it and anything on it including its cargo.
(2) An enforcement officer may require any person on the ship to give information concerning himself or anything on the ship.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of those powers an enforcement officer may—
(a) open any containers;
(b) make tests and take samples of anything on the ship;
(c) require the production of documents, books or records relating to the ship or anything on it;
(d) make photographs or copies of anything whose production he has power to require.
Drugs (Prevention of Misuse Act) Cap 284 of the Revised Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2009
- Powers to search and obtain evidence
(1) A police officer or other person authorised in that behalf by a general or special order of the Minister shall, for the purpose of the execution of this Act, have the power to enter the premises of a person carrying on business as a producer or supplier of any controlled drug or scheduled substance and to demand the production of, and to inspect, any books or documents relating to dealings in any such drugs or substances and to inspect any stocks of any such drugs or substances.
[Subsection (1) amended by Act No. 32 of 1993.]
(2) If a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that any person is in possession of a controlled drug in contravention of this Act of any regulations made hereunder the police officer may, subject to subsections (3), (6) and (7)—
(a) search that person, and detain him for the purpose of searching him;
(b) search any ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description in which the police officer suspects that the drug may be found, and for that purpose require the person in control of the ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description to stop it;
(c) seize and detain, for the purposes of proceedings under this Act, anything found in the course of the search which appears to the police officer to be evidence of an offence under this Act.
(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall derogate from any power of search or any power to seize or detain property which is otherwise exercisable by a police officer.
(4) If a magistrate or a justice of the peace is satisfied, by information on oath, that there is reasonable ground for suspecting—
(a) that any controlled drug is, in contravention of this Act or of any regulations made hereunder, in the possession of a person on any premises or in any place; or
(b) that a document directly or indirectly relating to, or connected with, a transaction or dealing which was, or an intended transaction or dealing which would if carried out be, an offence under this Act, or in the case of a transaction or dealing carried out or intended to be carried out in a place outside Saint Vincent and the Grenadines an offence against the provisions of a corresponding law in force in that place, is in the possession of a person on any premises or in an place,
he may issue a warrant authorising any police officer at any time or times within one month from the date of issue of the warrant, to enter, if need be by force, the premises or place named in the warrant, and to search such premises or place and any person found therein, and if there is any reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Act has been committed in relation to any controlled drugs found on the premises or place or in the possession of any such person, or that a document so found is such a document as is mentioned in paragraph (b), to seize and detain those drugs or that document, as the case may be.
(5) A person commits an offence if he—
(a) intentionally obstructs a person in the exercise of his powers under this section;
(b) being the person in control of the ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description fails to stop it when required to do so by a police officer under subsection (2)(b);
(c) being a person being conveyed in a ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description prevents or intimidates the person in control of or any other person operating the ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description from stopping when required to do so by a police officer under subsection (2)(b);
(d) without the permission of the police officer concerned, leaves a ship, vessel, boat, aircraft, vehicle or other means of conveyance of any description which has been stopped by a police officer under subsection (2)(b);
(e) conceals from a person under subsection (1) any such books, documents, stocks or drugs as are mentioned in that subsection; or
(f) without reasonable excuse (proof of which shall lie on him), fails to produce any such books or documents as are so mentioned where their production is demanded by a person in the exercise of his powers under that subsection.
(6) No person may be searched by any person of the opposite sex unless the consent of the person to be searched has first been obtained, or unless such search is made in the presence of some other person, not being a police officer, of the same sex.
(7) No article of a person’s clothing may be removed from his person during a search at any place other than within a police station.
Criminal Code Cap 171 of the Revised Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2009
- Power of search, arrest and forfeiture in offensive weapons, etc., cases
(1) A police officer who reasonably suspects that any person has concealed about his person in any public place any offensive weapon or ammunition, may request such person to accompany him to the nearest police station where the senior police officer on duty may cause such person to be searched. Any person who refuses to accompany a police officer when so required for the purpose of this subsection is guilty of an offence and may be arrested without a warrant and is liable to a fine of fifty dollars.
(2) A police officer may arrest without warrant any person who he has reason to believe is committing an offence against section 76 if such officer is not satisfied as to such person’s identity or place of residence or if he has reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary to arrest him in order to prevent the commission by him of any other offence in the course of which an offensive weapon might be used.
(3) Any offensive weapon, ammunition or prohibited weapon in respect of which a person has been convicted under section 75 or 76 shall be forfeited to the Crown.
It is quite obvious that “silly season” is in full effect. I urge our nation’s politicians and hopefuls to think seriously about what they are going to say, before they say them. Thank you.
Kezron J.S. Walters
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
It will be interested to know the statistics on how many crimes the police are able to prevent by this ‘stop and search’ practice in SVG, and how those this practice strengthen the police force.
If this is the normal approach by law enforce, no wonder we have so many crimes that go unsolved in this country. You must realized that the very innocent people you harass by stopping and searching on the basis of mere suspicion, are the same innocent people you usually look to for information whenever a crime is committed. With the current stop and search policy, you are creating an environment where the people’s confidence in the police is none existence, and therefore people will prefer not to diverge critical information that can help in a police investigation. This then will cause the police to work twice as harder in solving crimes.
Furthermore, how is it possible to know if person has stolen property if a crime or theft has not been reported or committed? And by which measure do the police use to determine who should be stopped and searched? This is a major problem and can lead to police profiling, which is very dangerous.
The key element of the law that you highlighted in the Criminal Procedure Code Cap 172-27 is: “…in respect of which an offence is being or has been committed”. So why then if no offense is being committed or has not been committed are our people still being stopped and search? This is harassment and an attempt by the police to intimidate the citizen of this country. Then you turn around and want the same citizens to provide you with information when a crime is committed.
In another aspect, while we need laws to protect this country, I do not believe the law regarding stop and search should apply to boats taking Vincentians between St. Vincent and the Grenadines islands. Taking one of those vessels is like taking a minivan from Kingstown to Leeward, Windward or any parts of St. Vincent. The last time I checked, the Grenadines are still part of St. Vincent, or did I missed something? Therefore, if you are going to stop and search Vincentians or vessels going to and from the Grenadines then equally so you must stop and search minivans at Little Tokyo in Kingstown. Continuing this indiscriminate stop and search practice will only weaken the police ability to tackle crime in this country. For when the very people you sworn to protect, you turn around and harass them with this stop and search on the basis of suspicion, you are creating problem for yourself. What we need is to better equip the police force with better crime fighting tools and educate them on the principles of community policing, for we need the police as much as they need us.
We need to re-address our legislation on this issue of stop and search in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We must not forget that we are a free and democratic country, and our police should no have to right to stop and search us indiscriminately.
Does any crime have a face to it . Can the police tell whether someone is about to commit a crime or not .
I know we are living in a democratic country but the police job also ,is, to protect the citizens of the land
The police should continue to stop and search any citizen to protect the country . Do you forget so fast the drive by shootings and senseless killings in the recent past .
Please let us all help the police to bring this country back to order where crime is concern.
The police has the right to stop and search any citizen on the basis of what? You can’t just go searching someone on the basis of suspicion and say I’m going to search you in the name of national security, that is harassment! How are you protection the country that one? As a matter of fact that is contrary to protecting the country. Why do think so many crimes go unsolved in this country? Don’t you think that some of these same citizens have vital information which the police can use to crack a case? But how could you feel confident in a police force when they indiscriminately stop and search its citizens for no apparent reason? Many of us would never know what that feels like until it happens to us or someone close to us…when you are simply walking the streets or going to catch a vessel to go Bequia and being hauled aside to be searched as if you are a criminal. Think about it my friend. Let that be your mother, your wife or sister, your daughter… and tell me that you will feel the same way.
The proper standard used for stop and search is ‘Probably Cause” (reasonable grounds for making a search, pressing charge, etc.), not suspicion or in the name of national security.
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