Live Blogging: Parliament Firearm/Bail Act Debate

June 4, 2010

10am: House starts, welcomes the visiting contingent from the Caribbean [Mckeeva Bush, Premier and Minister of Finance – The Cayman Islands, Ralph T. O’Neal OBE, Premier The British Virgin Islands, Charles Kirnon, Minister of Communications and Works & Labour Montserrat, Edison Baird, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Social Development Anguilla] who are here for the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting.

10:14am: Ministerial Statments begins. Minister James, Scott, Roban, Burgess and Blakeney speak. Minister Blakeney speaks on the Gulf Oil Spill in relation to Bermuda. Minister Burgess says a water commision should be established to ensure that residents pay a fair price for water. Minister Roban speaks on HIV month. Minister James speaks on Blueprint and Coco Reef lease.

11:02am: Question period begins: Dr Grant Gibbons [UBP] questions Minister James about the Coco Reef lease, asking did he approve the 2009 125 year lease addendum, Minister James says he covered it earlier, and says the College Board handles it. Dr Grant Gibbons asks how they can justify a 125 yr lease, when other quangos are not eligible for 125 yr leases.

11:07am: John Barritt [UBP] Asks Minister James if he is aware that according to an Act the College may only approve things with the approval of the Minister, then asks did the Minister see the lease. Minister James says they need his approval to obtain property, but not to lease.

11:09am: Shawn Crockwell [BDA] asks Minister James if he is aware of any further negotiations about Coco Reef lease.

11:11am: Patricia Gordon Pamplin [UBP] questions Minister Burgess. Louise Jackson [UBP] questions Minister Roban about HIV rates, and resources and funding available. Minister Roban says the budget explains that.

11:18am: Cole Simons [UBP] Thanks Minister Blakeney for the oil spill update, and asks what contingency plan we have. Minister Blakeney says he covered that, and that Dr Ming is presently meeting with others and that is under discussion, says they are actively looking and “digging below the surface” to decide the best plans should this impact the island.  Minister Blakeney says we have contingency plans, however points out this is a mass scale spill that the world is having troubles containing.  He goes on to point out that BIOS is very well qualified, and they are also looking into it, and the Government have a proactive approach to the oil spill.

11:26am: Congrats and Condolences begin.

11:45am: Introduction of bills starts…

11:50pm: Debate on Firearm Amendment Act starts

11:54am: John Barritt [UBP] mentions the 7 day tabling rule, about tabling a bill before it can be debated in the House.

12:05pm: Minister Michael Scott speaks on Firearms and Bail Act; amendments including stricter laws against selling, letting, renting firearms, provisions for Police to arrest without warrant if they suspect they are carrying a firearm, making firearm possession 7 – 25 years in prison, holding firearm suspects for 14 – 28 days without charge, issues of minors in possession of firearms, and police obtained the ability impose conditions of bail, such as a curfew or surrender of a passport

12:12pm: Trevor Moniz [UBP] speaks on firearm amendments, says important to cover all murders, stabbings etc, says a horrific act is a horrific act. Says “have to make whole system to work together”, and don’t want to “make draconian” rules due to inability to get convictions. Says we have problems getting convictions, and that crime needs to be a priority for Government.

12:30pm: Mark Pettingill [BDA] speaks briefly, before House adjourns for lunch, to resume again at 2pm.

2:05pm: Mark Pettingill [BDA] speaks again, on Firearms Act. Speaks to the 28 day holding of firearm suspects, and matters of fair detention. Says that “any criminal attorney worth his salt” could “play the constitution card” as it relates to unlawful detention. Says “what we lose in the front door we will lose in the back door”, says lawyers will “cane” the prosecution and say the Police have held people for too long. More details here.

2:30pm: John Barritt [UBP] says Police find it difficult to build cases due to lack of support from the public, calls the Firearms and Bail Act “Draconian legislation”. Says the legislation is modeled on the UK terror acts.

2:47pm: Walter Roban [PLP] speaks to the Firearms and Bail Act, says Police support these provisions. Calls guns “weapons of mass destruction”.

3:20pm: Bob Richards [UBP] says we need more CCTV cameras, says Government needs to make that a priority.

3:29pm: Shawn Crockwell [BDA] refers to Bladed Article Act, says we must be careful about making laws that are effective. Says speaking with many lawyers, not one found the 28 day hold with no charge provision reasonable. Says “we have to do something, or nothing will change.”

3:45pm: Wayne Perincheif [PLP]: Says we must look into a Gun Court, or at least a “court that is different”, where a witness can give evidence without intimidation, look into witness protection, says we need to look at the entire system at how we look at gun crime and gang crime.

4:00pm: Dale Butler [PLP] says we need protection, says it would be “folly” not to pass the Firearms bill.

4:05pm: Wayne Furbert [PLP] says as far as he understands it, suspects still have to go to court within 72 hours. Says he is not a lawyer, but an accountant, but knows there are “too many dead bodies”.

4:08pm: Ashfield Devent [PLP] says we are in a “new Bermuda”, as far as crime, and that we are in “virgin territory”. Says he has “slight concern” about the wording and holding people for “days and days” to question them. Says it is the type of legislation we may have to pass as we have a “new type of criminal”. Says the Firearm and Bail Act is “another tool in the arsenal to fight crime”.

4:15pm: Patricia Pamplin-Gordon [UBP] says she speaks with a heavy heart, as it is indicative of the “downward spiral” of our society. Says we are “not talking about waterboarding here”, says we don’t want to move “softly” on the criminal element, that we have done that already and it has “bitten us on our behind”.

4:28pm: Deputy Premier Paula Cox [PLP] says we have been subjected to a “steady diet of murders”, and says we must protect our citizens and economic way of life.

4:34pm: Michael Scott [PLP] says people are leaving home with guns with intent to kill, which the legal fraternity considers premediated murder. Says dogmas of the past don’t fit the “stormy present” and we must “act anew”. Says the detention has a clear purpose, says he has no difficulties of the constitutionality of these matters.

4:44pm: House moves into committee, clauses discussed and voted on separately.

5:20pm: Michael Scott, Mark Pettingill and John Barritt all making points on certain clauses. Mr Barritt says that he is sure people are thinking the only thing worse most people can think of then two lawyers argueing, is three.

5:49pm: Michael Scott [PLP] speaks on Bail Amendment Act, which seeks to increase powers of Police bail as it related to firearm suspects.. He says currently Police have no power to lay conditions on persons released to ensure they return, and must release then with the “hope” they return. If they do not return it wastes Police resources looking for them. Proposed conditions include, but are not limited to; reporting to Police station, curfews, residing at certain address, not to enter certain areas, not to drive, restricted movement out of Bermuda, surrender travel documents, to be fitted with electronic monitor. Conditions could be made by Police officers of the rank of inspector or above.

6:00pm: Trevor Moniz [UBP] says we should not restrict no-bail to only murder, but extend to attempted murder, as someone “may want to finish what they started.”

6:20pm: Shawn Crockwell [BDA] says Bail powers should be extended past firearm suspects, points out a pedophile would not fall in the amendment.

6:55pm: Glenn Blakeney: [PLP] speaks on the Bermuda Plan 2008. [see Government website here, for more info]

7:05pm: Cole Simons [UBP] says Bermuda Plan has been a long time coming, says it “should have been here in 2002.”  Says our building codes need to be in line with this 2008 plan, and they are not. Says he doesn’t understand why the Plan has been brought in, without the building code as they go “hand in hand”. Says it is “so so obvious” this Government will not commit to putting a height ceiling on commercial buildings.

8pm: Cole Simons [UBP] still speaking…talks about the “infamous exchange that was supposed to take place between Southlands and Morgans Point”. Finishes by saying he wished he had more time.

8:05pm: Wayne Perinchief [PLP] says Bermuda is “basically on a good footing” as far as tourists as concerned, saying they comment on our nice buildings, lack of refuse, and are impressed about our water collection.

8:22pm: Louise Jackson [UBP] speaks to health and safety of people that live in Mills Creek due to flooding, says businesses in the area are losing money due to huge puddles.

8:36pm: Derrick Burgess [PLP] says he feels Mills Creek has been over developed, and that Works and Engineering have done studies and a pumping station to alleviate the flooding would cost 2 – 3 million.

8:42pm: Dr Grant Gibbons [UBP] says we need a more specific plan as far as planning and zoning.

9:04pm: Bob Richards [UBP] speaks on Government bond road show, calls our debt a “self feeding negative cycle”. Says our debt is 86% per person of that of the USA even though we don’t have a diplomatic corp, huge military, space program etc. Also points out unlike the USA we cannot print our own money.

9:19pm: House adjourns to next week.

[Disclaimer: This is unofficial and does not represent all statements made, or speakers. For previous live blogging coverage click here.]

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