The lower house of Parliament will meet today to debate seven Bills, including amendments which will add stricter punishments for those who break gun laws.
Down for second and third readings are the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, the Criminal Prosecutions Service Bill and the Larceny (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs Steadroy Benjamin will lead off the debate on these items.
The Firearms (Amendment) Bill, will amend the Firearms Act by introducing more stringent penalties for those convicted of offences under the Firearms Act.
The Government, therefore, has decided to take away the option for judges to impose fines on those who commit offences against the Firearm Act . Instead only prison terms will be allowed under the new Bill.
The Criminal Prosecutions Service Bill establishes “the Office of the Criminal Prosecutions Service” (CPS) under the direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed under the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda. The Bill further addresses the powers and functions of the DPP in relation to the prosecution of criminal cases in Antigua and Barbuda.
The new Office, which the Bill seeks to create, will take over the function of police prosecutors who currently have the authority to bring criminal proceedings against offenders of the law. The Bill also proposes arrangements to enable current police prosecutors, to decide whether to transfer permanently to the Office of the Criminal Prosecutions Service or return to the Police Force.
The new CPS is designed to be independent of any person or authority as it relates to the exercise of the powers conferred upon the Director of Public Prosecutions by the Constitution.
Also slated for parliament: Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Gaston Browne will move the second and third readings of the Antigua and Barbuda Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, the Delimitation of Maritime Space (Antigua and Barbuda and the Republic of France in the Caribbean Region) (Ratification of Agreement) Bill and the Tax Administration and Procedure Bill, 2017.
The Antigua and Barbuda Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill amends the original Act of 2006 to make it possible for the Registrar to grant a certificate of registry to a ship where the owner of the ship has qualified or is in the process of qualifying to own an Antigua and Barbuda registered ship. The provisional registration can only be done where the administrative requirements preliminary to registration have commenced.
The provisional registration is valid for a period of six months, but may be extended for a further six months at the discretion of the Registrar.
Also down for debate is the Disabilities and Equal Opportunities Bill, to be presented by Minister for Social Transformation and Human Resource Development, Samantha Marshall.
The Bill proposes to expound the principles of equality and non-discrimination in relation to persons with disabilities by highlighting and enforcing the rights of such persons in accordance with those stated in the Constitution.
The Bill also establishes the Antigua and Barbuda National Council of/For Persons with Disabilities, which is vested with legal personality, and has several critical functions to perform including advising the Minister on all matters relating to persons with disabilities as well as formulating a detailed national policy to ensure that persons with disabilities receive adequate services which cater to their specific needs.
In addition, the Bill also establishes the Disabilities and Equal Opportunities Rights Tribunal which has the responsibility of hearing complaints filed with the Council which allege non-compliance with the provisions of the Act and rendering a decision on such complaints.
The House will also debate a motion by Prime Minister Browne, authorising the Government to borrow US$48,859,000 from the Caribbean Development Bank for the purpose of assisting the Government in financing the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Anchorage Road, Old Parham Road, Sir Sidney Walling Highway and Valley Road North and associated drainage and infrastructure.
Parliament will convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
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