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Police Bill 2023 raises red flags & makes way for police abuse of rights

Police Bill 2023 raises red flags & makes way for police abuse of rights

Many residents and legal minds, who have taken a look at the proposed Police Act, 2023, said the Bill in its current form has raised some serious issues and will take away the human rights of the people.

For example, in Section 27-35 that deals with fingerprints, foot impressions and DNA, the Act essentially allows the police to take fingerprints of a person without consent in almost every imaginable circumstance, without a warrant for same. These will be uploaded to a database and will remain on the database for seven years, even if the person is not charged, or has been acquitted or the case discontinued. This, they said, should be alarming for all residents.

Police Commissioner Mark Collins. Section 45 of the proposed Police Act, 2023 allows the Police Commissioner to implement a cordon whenever he/she sees fit.

Police can search without a warrant

In addition, Section 36 will allow for the police to search persons in their dwellings, without a warrant, if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person does not live there or does not have permission to be there. It has been argued that this again goes against human rights and the right of privacy.

Section 38 of the proposed Bill will allow a police officer to search the home of someone who is arrested on an arrestable offence without a warrant, even without that person being present. This provision should frighten the public on the face of it, according to one local activist.

A further review of the Bill shows that Section 42 would allow the police to access communications between lawyer and client. It has been long-standing in the international legal community and best practice that legal privilege is a constitutional right enjoyed by every individual and provides that what a client says to a lawyer and what a lawyer says to a client are to remain confidential.

Section 45 allows the Police Commissioner to implement a cordon whenever he/she sees fit, and “knowing our most recent experience with UK Police Chiefs, the public must push back against this,” the same activist noted.

Many residents and legal minds, who have taken a look at the proposed Police Act, 2023, said the Bill in its current form has raised some serious issues and will take away the human rights of the people.

Police can take computer & other property without warrant

Another red flag in the Bill is found in Section 49, which allows the police who are lawfully on the premises of anyone to seize their property without a warrant and require access to their computer without a warrant as is presently required.

Finally, Sections 186-189 alter the right to silence, and allows the court to draw negative inferences from a person exercising their right to silence. Currently, no negative inferences can be drawn from a person wishing to remain silent. Section 186 seeks to change that.

The right to silence is a constitutional right and protects our fundamental rights and freedoms. The social activist noted that constituents should call their House of Assembly (HoA) representatives on their concerns and pay close attention to this Bill.

The Police Act, 2023 had its first reading yesterday, Thursday, February 2, 2023, in the HoA. The Bill is sponsored by Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7).


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