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The Criminal Code

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Last week we looked at the Criminal Code, which is the document that sets out the punishment for crimes committed in SVG. This week we shall continue to look at other aspects of the Code as it is important for persons to know the law since the law itself proclaims that ignorance of the law is no excuse for committing a crime.{{more}}

A sentence of a fine or imprisonment and or compensation could be imposed on an offender, depending on the crime. The money collected for a fine goes into the government coffers, but compensation is paid to the injured person. Other decisions could be made as follows.

Suspended Sentence

Provision is made for suspended sentence in section 30 of the Criminal Code. It empowers a court to suspend a sentence where a term of imprisonment of not more than three years for an offence is given by a judge. The judge would indicate an operational period which would be not less than one year or more than three years during which the sentence would be suspended. If the offender commits a subsequent offence that carries a sentence of more than six months, then the sentence that was suspended would take effect. In that case the judge before whom the offender appears can impose the original sentence or substitute a lesser sentence under section 31. The judge dealing with the subsequent offence has a duty to inform the original court of the manner in which the offender was treated.

Where suspended sentence is not applicable

Where there is a sentence fixed by law, a suspended sentence cannot be given. It cannot be given also for offences involving illegal possession of firearms. A person who is given a suspended sentence is not eligible for a probation order in another offence before the same court at the same time. The judge who orders a suspended sentence must explain the effect of the suspended sentence to the offender. Magistrates dealing with an offender who is on a suspended sentence from the High Court must issue a certificate with such particulars to inform the High Court of a person who has committed an offence while on a suspended sentence.

Forfeiture

In addition, to the punishments noted before the proceeds of an offence can be forfeited. Property used in the commission of the offence can also be forfeited.

Security for keeping the peace

If a crime is not punishable with a sentence of death, then the offender could be ordered to keep the peace and be on good behaviour. This could be done if the judge discharges the accused on his own recognizance (money pledged/formal bond) or with sureties in an amount that the judge sees fit.

Discharge of offenders without punishment

Where the court proves a case and the person is found guilty, the court can under section 37 of the Code discharge the offender without punishment, taking into consideration the character, antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the accused. It can also take into consideration the trivial nature of the matter and the mitigating circumstances to discharge the offender. The court may order the person discharged to pay any costs or incidental to the prosecution which might have incurred.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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