SPURRED by the criminal element’s targeting of prison officers over the last decade, National Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday piloted a bill to bring stiffer penalties for anyone who harms or intends to harm a prison officer, police officer, immigration officer, customs officer, their relatives or their property.
“Anyone who assaults, threatens, obstructs or resists or aids or incites any other person to assault, threaten or obstruct a prison officer or take retaliatory action against a prison officer will face increased penalties and fines. The penalty is a $500,000 fine and imprisonment for 15 years.”
The relatives, according to the Act, include spouse or cohabitant, children, step-children and dependants, siblings, parents and grandparents. However, the Miscellaneous Provisions, Law Enforcement Officers, Bill also increases the penalties for “errant and corrupt” prison officers who traffic and smuggle in contraband-cell phones, drugs, firearms, explosives, alcohol-into the prison.
“We have put higher penalties on prison officers than we have on other persons who may breach this particular provision. And the message we are sending to prison officers is whilst we are prepared to protect you, we are also holding you to a higher standard,” Young said.
The bill creates an offence for inmates to have cell phones and use them and other electronic devices to transmit videos, audio reporting, and photographs to the outside world.
“If persons have devices and they are making WhatsApp calls, voiceover calls, etc, to communicate with persons on the outside, it is now a specific offence,” he said. The fine is $500,000 and 15 years imprisonment on conviction. The same penalty exists in the bill for a prison officer or a police officer who accepts a bribe.
must not obstruct police
Residents in communities who assault, restrict or obstruct police officers in the exercise of their lawful functions will face harsh penalties.
“We are seeing all too often that when police officers go into communities or areas to deal with the criminal element or to conduct enquiries, there has grown this phenomenon of blocking, attacking and assaulting and obstructing police officers. That is something that this Government is not prepared to tolerate,” Young said.
The penalty is a fine of $500,000 and 15 years imprisonment on conviction.
The minister said the bill also increases the penalty for refusing to assist a police officer. He said if a police officer is being assaulted, “you have a duty to assist him. Obviously not to the point of putting your life in peril.”
The bill also introduces the crime of tipping off.
“We have planned operations, such as the recent operations where we are going after these places of ill-repute, they have monitored these houses and on the nights or the days that we launch the operation, lo and behold, when the police arrive, no one is there, no activity is going on.” Young said the police in a sting operation called the “tipper”— “lo and behold a call came to the house from the police station which said ‘watch it, they coming’”.
He hastened to add that there were just a few bad apples.
The penalties have also been increased for police officers who rent their firearms to the criminal element, and make available their police clothing.
He noted that just on Thursday, three people were intercepted by the police, two of whom were wearing what appeared to be police uniforms.
The penalty is $750,000 and 20 years imprisonment.
Anyone who sells or gives a police officer liquor will face a penalty.
He said he has seen and received photos of Police Service vehicles outside bars and officers buying liquor. He said the penalties have been increased for the person who supplies the liquor and the police officer who consumes it.
Anyone who knowingly entertains a fire officer while he is on duty will also be penalised.
Young said the penalties would be increased for people who make false reports to the police.