A Government Senator has rubbished Opposition claims that members of the Royal Barbados Police Force have been given unconstitutional powers under the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was laid in the House of Assembly last week by Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett.
Addressing the monthly meeting of the St Peter branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party at the All Saints Resource Centre, Mile and Quarter, St Peter last night, Verla DePeiza, who is a practising attorney-at-law, pointed out that under the Criminal Arrestable Offences Act and the Police Act, lawmen already had the right to arrest persons on suspicion that they would commit an offence.
“The police do not have to wait for you to commit an offence in order for you to be arrested. You just have to look like you are about to commit a crime and they can ‘down hand in you’, arrest you in other words.
“They do not have to wait,” she argued.
Pointing out that under the Police Act there were already eight or nine categories under which the police could execute an arrest without a warrant, she emphasized that all the proposed amendment did was to provide another way.
“That’s all it is. The police have the right now to put a person out of the house temporarily,” she said, while pointing out that “there has to be risk of physical violence” and that it was not just carte blanche.
“You must understand the situation that law officers are looking to alleviate where very likely the persons already live in the same household, and it is simply a means of diffusing a volatile situation.
“It is also not unheard of in other jurisdictions for police officers to already have the right to separate the parties. The way to separate the parties in a situation like that will be for one to be removed from the household. It is not permanent,” DePeiza added.
The Government senator went on to say that under the Bill, the police’s emergency powers only existed until the alleged victims could get a court date.
“So if the incident occurred on a Tuesday night, it would be Wednesday morning. The emergency protection order will expire at the time of the next available court date. So Wednesday morning if the incident happens the Tuesday night, if the incident happens on Friday night it will offer protection straight through until Monday morning. I do not think it is unreasonable and I think it fits the circumstance very well,” the attorney-at-law explained.
During the introduction of the measure in Parliament last week, former Attorney General Dale Marshall had warned that the sweeping powers granted to police officers under the amended legislation could result in breaches of individuals’ constitutional rights. (NC)