Senate passes MOCA Bill with new amendments

THE Senate yesterday completed its deliberations on the long-delayed Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) Bill.

Debate on the Bill was suddenly stalled in the Senate in March, after the Appeal Court’s judgement against the right of Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) to arrest people, including members of the security forces.

The Appeal Court had ruled that: “The Independent Commission of Investigations is not empowered by section 20 of the Act, statute or common law to arrest, charge or prosecute any person for any criminal offence; section 20 of the Act does not empower the 1st respondent (INDECOM commissioner) or any of his investigative staff to arrest, charge or prosecute any person for any criminal offence”.

It also added that the Act does not abrogate the common law right possessed by INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams, and each member of his investigative staff, in their respective private capacities to initiate a private prosecution against any person for any criminal offence under section 33 of the Act.

The court’s decision forced the Government to reflect on the Bill, which was being debated, on March 9. Then minister of state in the Ministry of National Security Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, who piloted the Bill, requested that Senate president Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson suspend the debate to allow the ministry to look at the implications of the court’s ruling on the MOCA Act.

Yesterday, Senator Charles informed the Senate that the ministry had taken the time to evaluate the issues, and had made it possible for him to return to the Senate with a new list of amendments, in response to both the court’s ruling and comments which had been made during the debate by members on both sides.

“I am certain we should have no difficulty today. I believe that we will move smoothly through [the rest of] the committee stage, particularly because you will see a list of amendments that address several of the fundamental issues that have been raised,” Charles said.


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