Government is currently mulling over the introduction of anti-gang legislation in an effort to get a handle on escalating gun violence in Barbados, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson has revealed.
Delivering remarks during the release of the preliminary findings of a firearms study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit at the Savannah Hotel this morning, Hinkson suggested that the time may have come to revisit the draft anti-gang legislation proposed last year by the then Freundel Stuart administration.
However, the Minister suggested that he was not totally sold on the idea, stating that such a measure would come only after all other options were exhausted.
“Jamaica and Trinidad have passed anti-gang legislation within the last few years. I know that the previous Government was contemplating passing such legislation. In the draft legislation, I’ve seen comments from various forces, the Solicitor General’s office, the Defence Force and the police force on the issue. It is something that we may have to look at again going forward, certainly as a last resort,” Hinkson said.
The Minister noted that recent research has shown that Barbados does have a gang issue and that the block culture has become one of the major breeding grounds for this anti-social behavior.
“Research evidence confirms that Barbados has a problem with gang violence . . . and access to firearms has fueled the violence associated with gang activity. There’s also the element of the block culture, where gang members lime on some blocks for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity. This creates communities that are incubators for criminal activity,” he said.
Hinkson also disclosed that Government was considering the implementation of witness protection programmes to protect those brave enough to testify criminal actions of gangs. However, he noted that this would present some challenges as prosecutions take too long and Barbados is geographically too small to conceal a witness’ whereabouts for long periods
Last year then Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite warned that gang members and gang leaders, whether male or female, could find themselves facing between 20 and 25 years in prison respectively when the anti-gang legislation is passed in Barbados.
He revealed at the time that studies conducted by the Royal Barbados Police Force, the CJRPU, United States Agency for International Development and the Regional Security System, proved there were gangs in Barbados, and that this was becoming a problem.
He had also warned that it was a situation which could not be allowed to go unchecked as gang violence could result in innocent people being injured or killed.
Brathwaite lamented that too often, he heard of alleged gang leaders living among residents in districts seemingly without fear of prosecution.
“These persons corrupt many of our young men and women and send them into society to commit some very serious crimes.They are not heroes, they belong behind bars and that is why we want to give specific legislation to deal with them,” Mr. Brathwaite stated.