BVI, Caribbeanand International News

Governor denies rushing controversial Police Bill

Governor denies rushing controversial Police Bill

Governor John Rankin has denied accusations that he tried to rush a controversial Police Bill through the House of Assembly (HOA), causing lawmakers to postpone debate on the bill after an uproar in the community.
Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley had made it clear recently that lawmakers collectively recognise several “clearly problematic” areas of the bill and that “there is no intention by any member of the House of Assembly to pass this Bill in its current form.”

But Governor Rankin, who holds responsibility over the police force in the territory, insisted that his aim had only been for the territory to have an updated Police Act. He also suggested in the process that the existing legislation was deficient in the area of modern policing techniques, such as taking DNA samples.

“The Police Act and its updating has actually been in progress for many years and therefore it is not a rushed piece of legislation,” the governor said. “And what’s also important is that while protecting human rights, we also give the police the modern techniques which are required to tackle modern crime.”

Committed to human rights

With some critics signalling that the new Police Act in its current form would run roughshod over the human rights of residents, the governor also attempted to put those concerns at ease.

“I’m fully committed to protecting the human rights of individuals within this territory. BVI is a territory which benefits from the European Convention of Human Rights applying to it, and with my own background as a human rights lawyer, I would always wish to do nothing which is a contravention of international human rights standards.”

The governor said he made no apologies, if for instance, those new techniques, such as DNA fingerprinting could be employed to catch a rapist.

He stated that the BVI needs a law which is effective for policing the territory, but also respects the human rights of residents and said he was hopeful the HOA would be able to pass such legislation.

Act should be passed before elections

In the meantime, the governor shared his optimism that there could be progress on the Bill during the current HOA session, and said he was hopeful the Act can be passed ahead of elections which are expected to happen by mid-May, 2023.

Governor Rankin further stated that he would be surprised if lawmakers did not implement changes to the current bill and addressed the question of whether he would decline to provide assent to the Act once it is passed with changes.

“My hope would be that those changes would not be a backward step either in terms of protection of human rights, which would remain important for me, and in terms of giving the police the techniques they need to be able to fight the crime, which sadly, as I speak today, we’re all too aware of in the territory,” the governor said.

He added: “But I hope very much the bill whenever it’s passed is one to which I will be able to assent.”

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