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Regulations being drafted for Automatic Removal of Criminal Record for Ganja

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KINGSTON, Feb. 7 (JIS): Regulations guaranteeing automatic removal of an offender’s criminal record for convictions relating to the smoking or possession of small quantities of ganja are currently being drafted by the Ministry of Justice.

This is one of several key provisions being facilitated under the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Act 2014, which came into effect in October last year.

Providing details of this development, Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, informed that the regulations are expected to be ready for him to sign by next week, after which they will be brought to Parliament to be approved.

The Minister was addressing a Town Hall Meeting relating to this landmark legislation, held at the St. Andrew High School for Girls in St. Andrew on February 5.

The Minister explained that previously, under the law, automatic expungement of these records would be a discretionary matter for the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Board, and persons would not necessarily be entitled to it.

“It is a discretionary remedy. But in the case of the small quantity of ganja or smoking, you do not have to wait for any rehabilitation period. You can immediately apply for expungement and you’re immediately entitled to it; there is no discretion, it’s a right that you have,” the Minister said.

He noted that this new provision is already being implemented administratively by the Criminal Records Office where, if persons apply for their criminal record, and it is seen where there is a conviction for smoking or possession of a small amount of ganja, that record will be expunged before it is issued. “So, you don’t even have to go to the Board,” the Minister explained.

Mr. Golding said this “really is a transformational amendment, because of the fact that the convictions for ganja had affected so many people,” pointing out that between 2012 and 2014, the Ministry received 2,881 applications for expungement, before this legislation was brought into effect.

Of that number, 1,788 were approved, 147 were refused, and the others were either returned for one reason or another or deferred.

Senator Golding said that having a criminal record “for what was, in fact, a very minor and common offence” had serious disabling effects for persons, because it meant that they were unable to gain employment with the Government, and they could not apply for a visa successfully for certain countries.

The Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act removes the additional rehabilitation period prescribed in the Act (1988) and adjusts the rehabilitation period stipulated in the Act. It further provides for expungement of the criminal records for other minor offences.

The Town Hall Meeting was staged by the Justice Ministry and covered topics including: overview of the amended legislation; automatic expungement for minor offences; qualification for expungement; and the application process for expungement.

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Bahamas News

Press Release: Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Bahamas

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February 3, 2023 – ILM Bahamas Centre held its Certificate Presentation Ceremony for Cohort 7.  The cohort consisted of fourteen (14) Senior Immigration Officers from the Department of Immigration.  This Cohort was a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Four of the Immigration Officers were from the Family Islands (Grand Bahama, Abaco, Berry Islands and Eleuthera).

Present at the ceremony were:  The Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration, Madam Justice J. Denise Lewis-Johnson, Permanent Secretary Ms. Ceceila Strachan, Executive Chair of NTA Ms. Agatha Marcelle, Executive Director of NTA Mr. Terry Murray, Director of Immigration Mrs. Keturah Ferguson, Deputy Director of Immigration Mr. Dwight Beneby, Ms. Esther McKinney Office Manager at the Department of Immigration.

The guest speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Donald M. McCartney a Leadership and Management Consultant with Motivation Incorporated Bahamas and the United States. He was a former senior public servant.  He was also a First Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service with responsibility for the Northern Bahamas. He was also a former educator and professor at various colleges in the United States.

In his address to ILM Cohort 7, Dr. McCartney spoke about having the courage to lead and that leadership goes beyond SELF.  It’s not about you or your ego but rather more about contributing to nation building. He said, “We must be prepared to take the bold steps that would not lead us into the abyss of despair but on the road that leads us to lift up our heads to the rising sun and press onward to the mountaintop experience, which will lead us to become the proud and productive people we were destine to be.”  He also expanded on the four fundamental virtues: COURAGE, TEMPERANCE, JUSTICE AND WISDOM.  Additionally, he expanded on the focus and influence of courage, on the ego and discipline.

The Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration brought brief remarks on the occasion.  Some of the highlights of his speech were that Immigration is one of the highest revenue earners, challenges within the Department of Immigration such as lack of autonomy from the Public Service as compared to the other armed forces. He also talked about that the fact that the top tier is going to be retired within two years and this would be an opportunity for many of the graduates of this Cohort 7 to gain upward mobility.

He also stated that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the Immigration Act, and a review of the Asylum Bill.  Furthermore, he discussed the inevitable need for the relocation of the Department of Immigration from its current location. Lastly, he stated that we must tread a delicate balance between enforcing the law and being humane, in regards to shanty towns.

It is noteworthy that the ILM Centre at the National Training Agency recently obtained a Centre upgrade.  The ILM Centre Bahamas now hold the statue of Direct Claim Status with City and Guilds of London. Additionally, the Centre is now registered with the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of the Bahamas (NAECOB) for all of its current course offerings. The ILM Department is lead Miss Pamela Gomez as the ILM Centre Coordinator. Registration is now open for Level 2 Certificate in Leadership and Team Skill and Level 3 Certificate in Leadership and Management. Our mission statement is, “Helping people, organizations, and economies develop their skills for growth.”

For more information, contact the ILM Centre Bahamas located in the Gladstone Road Business Centre by calling 461-6021 or 461-6008.

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Bahamas News

Sugar and salt tax campaigns gaining steam 

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

 

February 7, 2023 – A global battle on sugar and salt is ramping up as the United States joins The Bahamas and Barbados in creating proposals for historic sugar and salt laws.

The country’s Agricultural Department for the first time in history, proposed a cap on the amount of sugar to be allowed in school meals.

The World Health Organization has found that North America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of childhood diabetes in the world and based on the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas we also have the second highest prevalence of Diabetes overall for all global regions at 14 percent  or 51 million people with a projected 24 percent increase in just 22 years.

Barbados, the United States, Canada, Haiti, Mexico, Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis are all suffering from incredibly high rates of diabetes.

Barbados and The Bahamas announced sugar taxes last month; the hope is to reduce the importation and sale of sugar and salt rich foods.

Advocates across the Caribbean including Jamaica, Trinidad, and others have been campaigning for sugar taxes in their own countries with support from the public.

Now the proposed nutritional rules for the United States would set firm boundaries on how much salt and sugar can legally be added to meals, setting a new standard as most food imports for countries like The Bahamas are from the US.

The plan for the US is expected to be rolled out by 2025.

The rules, are unapologetically an attempt to cut down incidences of diabetes and other diseases fueled by unhealthy diets, according to media reports.

For now, the quantities on sugar and salt additives is an idea waiting wider consultation.

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Government

Texas bans TikTok from government agencies 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

#USA, February 7, 2023 – Chinese owned TikTok has officially been banned from Government devices in another US State following the passing of a new law banning the social media app on Federal devices in December.  Texas Governor Greg Abott made the decision for his state following Virginia, Maryland, Alabama and Utah.

In a statement posted to his website Abbott said “The security risks associated with the use of TikTok on devices used to conduct the important business of our state must not be underestimated or ignored.”

He also claimed the app was harvesting significant amounts of data from users’ phones, maintaining the ban was necessary to  protect Texas’ sensitive information from threats.

The ban on downloading and use will apply to both state and personal devices with internet connectivity  that are used to conduct state business including cell phones, laptops, tablets and desktops.

It also prohibits residents from conducting state business with devices that have TikTok or other ‘prohibited technology’ enabled on them and bans any device with this technology from entry and use in sensitive areas, locations or meetings. The ban must be in effect by February 15 in all state agencies. There was no indication it would affect devices, personal or otherwise, not used to conduct state business.

The ban comes amidst increased tensions between the country and the Republic of China over a spy balloon that was sent into US airspace by China and then shot down by the US.

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