The government will be looking to introduce and amend at least five pieces of legislation to improve the security and justice system within the territory this year.
According to Governor John Rankin
who outlined the government’s upcoming legislative agenda during his Throne Speech on Tuesday, one such legislation is the Police Act.
“The introduction of the Police Act will bring together an updated legislative basis for policing in the territory and provide a strong constitutional and professional base for a modernised Police Force,” Governor Rankin stated.
He also announced the introduction the Witness Anonymity Legislation. Rankin said it will be an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime and further strengthening public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“It will ensure the protection of witnesses and the preservation of their rights by providing for a court to make a witness anonymity order to protect the safety of the witness, prevent property damage, and prevent real harm to the public interest,” the Governor added.
Rankin said another new piece of legislation expected to be introduced to the House of Assembly is the Criminal Procedures Rules. He said this legislation will serve a vital role in managing criminal matters filed with the Supreme Court. This, he said, will improve upon the existing Criminal Procedure Code and provide a more detailed framework for the administration of justice.
In the meantime, the governor also announced that the 36-year-old Schedule of Fees of the Magistrates’ Code of Procedure Rules will see an increase in filing and service-related fees to reflect operational costs associated with ‘a higher-level functioning Magistracy’.
He further said the Jury Act will be reviewed to examine the powers of judges as it relates to jury trials and will explore whether a Judge can hear some trials without a jury to allow for the expediency of justice in the territory. The review will also be conducted to streamline and enhance jurors selection and establish a juries register for the Virgin Islands