Tougher criminal laws after half a century

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas piloted the Criminal Code (Amendment) 2012

Grenada’s Parliament has upgraded the island’s Criminal Code to allow additional fines and confines for criminal offences and to make provision for prosecuting of crimes that did not form part of the old Code.

The Criminal Code (Amendment) 2012 which provides for the revision of parts of the Criminal Code CAP. 72A of the 2010 Continuous Revised Edition of the laws of Grenada, was passed during a recent Sitting of the House of Representatives.

These amendments will seek to make the dispensation of justice more efficient and workable by providing for the following: Granting Magistrate powers to try a wider cross section of offences; Granting Magistrates greater sentencing powers; and Increasing maximum sentences for certain indictable and summary offences.

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas piloted the Bill that saw 62 amendments to the current Criminal Code drafted since 1958. PM Thomas who is also Grenada’s Minister of National Security and a lawyer by training said the existing Bill is archaic and must be revised to provide for and be in keeping with modern Criminal Justice Systems.

He told the House that an area of concern within the Criminal Justice System is the backlog of criminal matters before the High Courts, which shows that one of the main reasons for the volume of High Court matters is the fact that the summary courts in Grenada have too limited powers, and many matters have to be escalated to the High Courts. He said that experience has shown that on occasions even the most minor incident, assault, has engaged a judge and jury for weeks in a High Court and therefore amending the Criminal Code is critical.

A second area of concern he said is the fact that the maximum penalty for certain offences are woefully inadequate, specifically sexual offences. Grenada’s punishment for most sexual offences and other offences falls below the mark set by other jurisdictions and the punishments being meted out by the courts are not serving as a realistic deterrent.

The amended Code ensures that several of the existing offences provided for as indictable offences can now be tried summarily. A new summary offence of Indecent Assault has been created to carry a term of five years imprisonment while the indictable offence of assault has been increased from two years to five years. The Bill makes provision for the controversial matter of marital rape whereby a spouse, male or female, found guilty of the offence is liable on conviction on indictment to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years.

A new summary offence has also been created for exposing a child to grievous harm with a term of five years imprisonment while the indictable offence has been increased from five years to ten years. A new summary offence of housebreaking has also been created giving the Magistrate power to try housebreaking offense where the breaking is not associated with any serious offence.

The revised Criminal Code has also introduced other stiffer penalties. The following are some of the proposed amendments in order to increase penalties; – Rape to be increased from fifteen years to thirty years; Stealing to be increased from five years to ten years; Fraud in sale of land to be increased from two years to five years; Burglary, to be increased from fifteen years to thirty years; and falsification of accounts to be increased from seven years to fifteen years.

Sexual offences provisions have now been amended to provide for both male and female victims. This amendment seeks to modify the provisions within the current Criminal Code that in most instances only provided for female victims.  A section has also been added to deal with prostitution.

A common prostitute that is liable on conviction on indictment to a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten years; a person found guilty of keeping a brothel is also liable on conviction on indictment to a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten years.

In this overhaul of outdated laws section 177 to 183C of the current Code has been repealed and new provisions drafted, some of which include – the old law that defined rape as “Carnal Knowledge of a female of any age without her consent”.  The new definition of rape states “A person commits the offence of rape if; he or she intentionally and unlawfully commits an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs, of another person; the other person does not consent to the penetration; or he or she does not believe that the other person consents to such penetration or is reckless as to whether the other person consents or not.”

Another fundamental amendment has been made with regard to the offence of Murder. This offence is presently on the law books as a capital offence. Case law has ensured that a Judge retains discretion as to whether to impose a maximum penalty or give a lesser sentence.

In light of this throughout the region, some territories have rendered assistance to the court by seeking to categorize and distinguish various levels of murder. This move has now resulted in two distinct categories of murder: capital murder being the most serious offence and non-capital murder less serious offence.

The Amendments make provision for community services once a person is convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment.

Other offences and penalties include: taking and using cattle without owner’s consent – fine not exceeding $250; fraud pertaining to tickets, witchcraft – a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year; Pigs in town – a fine not exceeding $400; habitual drunkenness – a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months; Prohibition of selling goods on Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday – a fine not exceeding $500; having instruments of obeah in Court – a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months; Mischievously frightening animals – a fine not exceeding $250; and unlawful voting at election – a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.

The improved laws have been unchanged for 54 years.

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