First conviction for police against the playing of loud music in vehicles
The Traffic Department is asking that heavy fines be imposed to mark the seriousness of the offence of playing unauthorized loud music in vehicles.
On August 24, Gaston Browne, 31 years, became the first person to be charged after police decided to redouble their efforts under Regulation 31 of the Traffic Act.
Alongside three other charges, namely, failing to give his name and address to the police, driving without a permit, and driving without wearing a seatbelt, Browne was charged for playing a musical instrument in PJ827 without written permission from the Commissioner of Police.
He pleaded his guilt, and sentencing was adjourned to last Wednesday, when traffic court is held at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
There, Inspector Henry Providence indicated that the police were going to redouble their efforts on enforcing the Traffic Act.
“The issue of playing musical instruments in motor vehicles, has become very topical… it is a matter that concerns the public, the young, the old, and they are all affected, in one way or the other by this loud and aggressive music,” Providence commented.
He explained that the traffic department has been trying to bring the matter to ‘satisfaction,’ and explained that there had been issues in the past with the interpretation of ‘musical instrument.’
“We had debates in the past in courts of law, questioning what is a musical instrument, and the Act does not define what is a musical instrument. However, your honour, there is legislation under our laws, which define what is a musical instrument, even though it’s from another Act, which is also speaking of noise of a musical instrument,” Providence continued.
He stated that the Noise Act contains this definition, and among other instruments, lists a radio receiver, and “any article of anything made or adapted for use in making or attempting to make musical sounds.”
“Even if the Traffic Act does not spell out what is a musical instrument, the police and the court cannot now just throw their hands in the air and say, okay the act doesn’t define, so we cannot do anything,” the Inspector reiterated.
He stated that it is something that the court should interpret, thinking about the intentions of the legislators when they drafted the Act. “What were they trying to prevent? Were they trying to prevent us playing a tambourine in the vehicle…? They were not trying to prevent that. They were specifically trying to deal with the issue of music coming from these musical instruments, the radio receiver and this amplified music. That is the issue that they were trying to prevent,” Providence explained.
He informed that this rationale had been given the green light by the Director of Public Prosecutions and Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell.
The Inspector said that the issue of loud music has become a ‘nuisance’ and has “the entire St Vincent and the Grenadines complaining.” The police having been clamping down on the matter, and intend to continue to keep Kingstown quiet, he stated.
“I don’t really want to target the omnibuses, but they are some of the persons who are really bent on breaking this law, and we at the department, we are going to come very strong, as I said, and we are going to insist that this piece of legislation be enforced,” Providence reiterated.
Saying that we cannot continue on the path we are on now, the Inspector requested, “I want the court to send the message, to the whole of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett declined to comment on the issue as further matters would be before him. However he asked, since he had seen someone make the point that the Act means that persons have to attain permission from the police to play their radio in their car, for clarification.
“Well your honour, that is what the Act requires, but at the same time your honour, the police have their discretion,” Providence replied.
He also stated, “Let’s be honest and frank. The police not going to bother with you, in a sense, if you going down the road and listening to your radio for your own comfort.”
He added that the police were focusing on the areas between Back Street, going to Bay Street.
Burnett asked the defendant what he was playing in his car, and he smiled sheepishly while answering “Music.” He also said that it was “not too loud.”
The senior magistrate told him that it must have been loud enough to attract the attention of the police.
Saying that it was early days yet, Burnett fined Browne twice the minimum fine, which is $250, but not near the maximum which is $2000. He also did not imprison him for three months as the Act provides for.
Browne was fined $500 for the offence of playing a musical instrument without written permission from the Commissioner of Police, and $250 each for the three other charges.