Sex and firearm offenders in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will soon face stiffer penalties for their crimes.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has announced that his government will soon introduce legislation to increase the penalties for some sexual offences as well as possession of unlicensed firearms.
Gonsalves, who is also minister of legal affairs, said the government will also introduce a law to regulate the tinting of vehicles, an issue on which the law is currently silent.
“Because criminals or persons suspected of criminal activities have been using tinted vehicles to make detection more difficult,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security.
“I know some persons are going to object. But the point is this, we have to be reasonable. And we have to think of the entire country.
“I know some persons like to have the tint and be inside there and nobody can see them, and so on — privacy and all the rest of it, but the not only the evidence here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but comparative evidence across the region and from various advisors that this is an area which we need to address.”
Some criminals in SVG who have been using heavily tinted vehicles to travel to and from the scenes of their crimes have gotten away scot-free despite the number of surveillance cameras erected in high traffic areas.
For example, investigators are yet to crack the case of the worst mass killing in the country, which occurred when gunmen exited a vehicle, opened fire killing five males in Kingstown around 8:30 p.m. on July 19 then fleeing in the vehicle.
Further, it is widely believed that fake registration plates are being fitted to vehicles used in the commission of crimes.
However the government has not announced any law that would regulate the production of registration plates.
Currently, anyone can have any registration plate made.
Gonsalves said the law to regulate tinting will be introduced soon.
“Well, I want it to be done quite quickly. But there’s a draft on it already. I’ve given my OK as Minister of Legal Affairs, chair of the Cabinet Subcommittee on Legislation,” he said.
The prime minister said the increase in the penalties for firearm possession will bring them inline with the regional averages.
“It’s fairly stiff at the moment. But it looks as though when you examine comparatively other areas we might be in terms of penalties a little below the median line, though it used to be abnormally low and we increased it. Remember it was one year, we increased it to seven years, but lots of places is 10 in the region, in some cases, 15.”
He noted that the seven year penalty does not apply to prohibited firearms.
“I’m talking for, quote unquote, normal firearms.”
The prime minister said that there will be “some review of the penalties for some particular sexual offences where some of the penalties are not in sync with some of our own neighbours or where we consider they ought to be.”
There is often outrage in SVG over the sentencing for indecent assault, the maximum penalty for which is five years imprisonment if the victim is less than 15 years old and two years imprisonment in any other case.
In SVG, indecent assault includes sexual touching or performing oral sex on a person under the age of 15 or having a person under 15 perform such an act.
Indecent assault also refers to adults on whom such an act is performed or who performs such an act against their will.
Gonsalves further said that his government has to work also on strengthening the prisons, including the physical facilities.
“We are improving up in Belle Isle with the women’s prison, but we also have some work, a lot of work to do on the prison down in Kingstown, the old prison,” he said.
“And then there are some other organisational issues. I had a discussion with the superintendent of prisons acting, Dwayne Bailey, who is a splendid leader, is doing a good job,” Gonsalves said.