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.
COVID Vaccine mandate expires Dec 31, TCIG stalled on ending it sooner
By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos does not seem primed to do away with its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for entry to the islands just yet, Magnetic Media learned from Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and Human Services.
Robinson maintained that “As usual all remaining regulations are continuously under review. Current regulations expire December 31st.”
Despite them being under constant review, the Minister gave no indication that the Turks and Caicos Islands Government would accelerate any change to the rule.
The question though, is why? The Turks and Caicos Islands Government has continuously stated that it is following the science and the UKs lead when it comes to the country’s Covid-19 response. The UK dropped its vaccine mandate for entry back in March as the country was coming off of the Omicron wave and dozens of other countries have done so since.
In terms of the science, not only does vaccination not stop the virus from spreading to vulnerable islanders, the earliest vaccines and boosters have notoriously little efficacy against the circulating variants.
In addition, there is little evidence to suggest that allowing unvaccinated individuals within borders has a negative effect on that country’s Covid case count.
Not only are the islands missing out on a major chunk of their source markets who are unvaccinated, homeowners who are unvaccinated have not been able to return to or see their property investments since the mandate was adopted in September 2021.
Deputy Premier E Jay Sanders had explained that, “thanks to the country’s over performing tourism sector when the decision is made to pull back that requirement it will be done not out of pressure but with the TCI people in mind.”
It’s unclear what the reasoning behind keeping the mandate is when it now has been proven to provide so little protection.
Additionally, it was explained that multiple attempts by the Ministry of Health to secure avenues for unvaccinated homeowners in the Turks and Caicos to visit their properties have been rebuffed at the Cabinet level.
Robinson was addressing the continued COVID-19 vaccine requirement for travel to the TCI which blocks unvaccinated tourists and homeowners from entering the island.
“On several occasions, I have presented possible pathways for homeowners to be able to visit their properties outside of a full repeal of the vaccine entry mandate and each time there was not full support for it moving forward in Cabinet,” he said.
Magnetic Media has spoken to irate and broken-hearted homeowners who have not been able to visit their properties in a year despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and other fees to have a home on the islands.
The Health Ministry however says his team is now preparing a cabinet paper to weigh the pros and cons of continuing with the vaccine mandate. Robinson said that paper has not made the agenda as yet, taking a back seat to more pressing issues including the passing of Hurricane Fiona.
The paper should reach cabinet “soon” but this is not a guarantee that the measure will be dropped. Robinson also defended the TCIG’s current policy.
“Based on the numbers I have received from the (tourism) industry to date, being one of the few only remaining destinations with a vaccine mandate doesn’t seem to be hurting our projected occupancy rates for the months of December, January, and February across all segments of the Industry.”
The issue of why the vaccine mandate persists are heightened due to major announcements in recent days including, Joe Biden, US president declaring that the Coronavirus Pandemic “is over”; Canada moving to end its vaccine entry requirement on September 30 and The Bahamas calling off mandatory testing as of September 22 and rescinding the mask rule (for most public places) on October 1.
The mandatory vaccine measure came into effect in September 2021 prior to the widespread emergence of Omicron and lowered vaccine efficacy. It is also a mandatory requirement for guest workers in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Turks and Caicos Islands Rebounding Quickly from Hurricane Fiona
#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos Islands is working around the clock to quickly rebound from the effects of Hurricane Fiona, which hit the islands as a Category 3 storm on Tuesday, September 20th 2022. By 11:50PM EDT of the same day, the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) advised that hurricane warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands was discontinued and stated that the National All-Clear was given by the Department of Meteorology.
Preliminary assessments indicate that significant damage across the country was minimal. Major airport updates are as follows:
- The Providenciales International Airport re-opened on Wednesday, September 21st 2022 for all flight operations.
- The South Caicos Airport re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 for all flight operations
- The JAGS McCartney International Airport in Grand Turk re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd for emergency and medical flights
- Airport operations on North Caicos and Salt Cay remain closed until further notice
Carnival Cruise Line is currently working alongside the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to conduct preliminary assessments of the port facility at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Once completed, all necessary measures will be taken to have the port operating as soon as possible.
Yesterday, during the briefing in the NEOC, the Acting Governor, Her Excellency Anya Williams advised that Public Service in Providenciales would re-open on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 – restoring normal service delivery.
“We thank God that the Turks and Caicos Islands was able to hold strong through Hurricane Fiona – with only minor damages and without any lives lost. The following day after receiving the National All-Clear from the NEOC, the hub to the Turks and Caicos Islands – the Providenciales International Airport – was re-opened and international flights arrived” stated Minister of Tourism, Hon. Josephine Connolly. “But while we were extremely fortunate, we acknowledge that some of our neighbouring countries were not and our thoughts and prayers are with them”, added Hon. Connolly.
“A day after Hurricane Fiona, we were already welcoming guests back to the home of the World’s Best Beach, Providenciales”, stated Acting Director of Tourism, Mary Lightbourne. “Resorts and hotels in Provo are fully operational, so we encourage guests to keep their travel plans to visit. And in the upcoming days, we will welcome visitors to our sister islands” added Lightbourne.
Turks & Caicos Coasts still ‘beautiful’ despite Hurricane Fiona
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – Despite its strength Hurricane Fiona thankfully did no major damage to the TCIs coast according to Roddy McLeod, Reef Specialist at the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources.
He explained that the DECR has been working with DDME to assess community impacts. So far, no significant erosion has been observed around Providenciales but the seas and sea-beds were definitely disturbed.
McLeod said “Sediments remain in suspension. This will have impacted our reefs and will continue to impact our reefs until the seas settle. Sediments will likely settle on marine habitats and negatively impact them. Some sand bars have been moved so mariners should take extra care.”
Cleanup operations and restorations continue across the islands in the aftermath of Fiona, which hit the islands as a category three hurricane September 19-20.
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