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Rehabilitation of Offenders Act gives second chance

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Prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has explained that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 2009, which he piloted, gives young people a second chance.{{more}}

Speaking at a rally of his Unity Labour Party (ULP) last Sunday, Gonsalves said the law wipes an offender’s record clean in certain circumstances.

“There a lot of youngsters who get involved in little things and when they want a visa, or when they want to go sailing, they have to get a record or they ask for a job, they have to get a record. Simple things. The law we passed for these simple things, the record is write clean, you understand me,” Gonsalves said, adding however, that there are certain matters for which a person’s record remains.

He outlined instances in which a person’s record is wiped clean:

“If the magistrate sentences you to a term of imprisonment for less than six months and seven years pass, that record is wiped clean. If he sentenced you to between six months and 30 months, after 10 years that record is wiped clean. And if you only get a fine or a non-custodial sentence, after five years, you don’t have a record, you ovas?

“So, if a magistrate charge you for a bad word in 2002, by 2007 your record is clean. There is no record. If you smoke a spliff behind your grandmother house and you only get a fine, after five years, your record is wiped clean. I bring that law in Parliament. I want the News hear that. I want the whole country hear that and I was personally involved in the drafting of that law.

“How is it that it’s only in St Vincent that when a man makes a simple mistake that they want it to go with him to the grave. Why is it we want to treat our own people like that? We must show love and understanding. And we must show forgiveness and go forward.”

Gonsalves said such laws exist in countries like Austrailia, New Zealand and other places in the world and questioned why this country cannot have a such a civilized regime to protect the young people.

According to Gonsalves, who is seeking a fourth term in office, the matter in which ULP candidate for North Leeward Carlos James was involved was “a simple traffic matter where James was interceding to tell the policeman he wasn’t dealing with the matter properly.”

At the time of the incident, James was in the company for Hawkins Nanton, then also a reporter at SEARCHLIGHT. Nanton is now an inspector of police.

“According to them, a bad word was spoken by Carlos to the policeman. They ain’t provide no evidence of that, you know. But let us assume that that is so. Let me say this, how is it that a bad word make you a criminal, eh?

“Under the law, if you speak an indecent or obscene language, either in a public place or within view or hearing of a public place, it is an offence… What happen? Patel running to be Pope. He running to be the Pope of the Holy See of the Vatican? I mean, they must have a sense of proportion about this thing,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves pointed out that while the candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Central Leeward Ben Exeter was recently charged with a traffic offence, he would not say that that offence makes Exeter a criminal.

“I mean, let us have a sense about it. So Patel [Matthews], (the member of Parliament for North Leeward), if that is all you have against Carlos, just simply cool down…,” Gonsalves said.(KW)

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