Beautiful Virgin Islands

Police Bill changes not ‘slipped in’ at last moment — Governor

Police Bill changes not ‘slipped in’ at last moment — Governor

After coming under fire for being tardy in submitting a highly contentious Police Bill to lawmakers recently, Governor John Rankin has denied that there was any attempt to slip in last-minute changes before it was submitted.
Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley told the public last week that the Bill – which, among other things, will empower police officers to conduct searches and take DNA samples without the use of a warrant – will not be moved forward in the House of Assembly (HOA) in its current state, given the many concerns that lawmakers held over its various provisions.

Dr Wheatley said legislators will return this week during the final sitting of this HOA with a small amendment to the principal Act in the House, before bringing the controversial revisions back to the public at a later time for additional consultations.

Opposition Leader and Third District Representative Julian Fraser, in the meantime, said he was concerned about police tactics that seek to surreptitiously collect DNA samples from criminal suspects without a warrant, as is currently being done in the United States.

Inaccurate perception

According to Governor Rankin, a number of the issues now being raised were included in the 2019 version of the bill or in the consultations, which took place on the draft legislation last year.

“I agree with the Premier that ideally the Act should have been presented to the House of Assembly sooner,” Governor Rankin said at a press briefing late last week. “But the impression given in some quarters, including social media comments, that most of the amendments to the Act were made at short notice is inaccurate.”

“That is not to say there should not be a proper debate about the bill’s provisions, but any suggestion that a series of major significant changes were slipped in at the last moment is, with respect, not accurate,” he argued.

The governor said while he understood that the Police Act as tabled, has now been withdrawn, he was hopeful that House of Assembly will soon return to it.

“It’s essential that the police are given the modern tools necessary to tackle crime that blights both individual victims and the community as a whole, while also ensuring that individual rights are protected,” Governor Rankin added.

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