Attorney General of Barbados Adriel Brathwaite.
Amendment to Police Act necessary to address changing criminal behaviour
ATTORNEY General of Barbados, Adriel Brathwaite says the objective of the amendments to the Police Act is not to trample the rights of Barbadians but to ensure that Royal Barbados Police Force can adequately respond to violent crime in the country.
He reiterated this point during a Democratic Labour Party St. Michael North meeting held at the Eden Lodge Primary on Sunday night, where he addressed claims that the amendments are turning the country into a police state.
Brathwaite drew reference to the Opposition Barbados Labour Party and claims that the amendments are unconstitutional, needs wider consultation and needs to be assessed by the Bar Association.
He said that the Barbados which existed in the 1960s and 1970s no longer exists, and the changes made to the legislation only seek to formalise what already obtains, while at the same time giving citizens more rights.
“The level of violence that we are seeing… the type of behaviour that we are seeing would suggest that we are going to have to look at giving the police in this country some additional powers so that we can continue our way of life. You saw it at Spring Garden on Kadooment Day. You realise that in fact these young men are a different breed of young men.”
“When we were growing up you used to throw a rock and quickly run along home. Nowadays they throw six shots, hit me, hit five others and run and go home. They do not care! They are a different breed! Therefore our approach of the issue of how we deal with violent crime in this country has to be different,” he explained.
The Minister of Home Affairs believes that while he agrees with the “soft” initiatives, there are times when the tougher initiatives will be needed.
He lamented that while persons advocate that police officers should be given more resources and more powers, when it is done – the view is espoused that the officers can’t be trusted.
The Minister stressed that every effort was made not to infringe on the rights of the ordinary Barbadians, adding that wide consultation was carried out in the attorneys in the chambers of the Attorney General and other senior counsel. He pointed to some of the changes which include executing warrants early in the morning which, he reminded, already happens.
“There is nothing wrong that they can go between five and eight because they have been doing it for generations. Just putting it there that the ordinary citizen can understand the power that they have.”
Additionally as it relates to using video and audio recording during these searches, he said under the new Act this is encouraged.
“That is giving you stronger rights than you had before. The Opposition says we are wrong for putting it into law and allowing the police to do exactly what they have been doing but enhancing the citizen’s rights in the process.”
As it relates to stop and search operations, he said they too have existed in Barbados for a long time. “All I sought to do is put it on clear legislative footing.”
He said similar pieces of legislation can be seen in territories such as Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
“We have to assume the Barbados we knew in the 60s and 70s isn’t the same and we therefore need to provide the necessary framework so that we can address the issues that will confront us. That is my responsibility as a law maker,” he reiterated. (JH)