Stiff fines, jail for errant party boats, animal cruelty in new bill

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. -
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. -

PARTY BOAT operators face a $150,000-fine and ten years in jail if they breach the Shipping Act.

This is one of 18 laws amended by the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2020 passed by the Senate on Wednesday, said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

He said current regulations had no teeth against errant operators of party boats, with independent Senator Anthony Vieira saying the pandemic places an extra duty of care on passengers who board.

Passed in the Lower House in April, the bill also affects the disclosure of people’s financial details, company shareholders and magistrates protection, among other things.

The AG said the bill was largely needed because of the covid19 pandemic, during which people must operate in virtual/online ways, such as managing receipt of evidence in criminal proceedings and filing documents.He said clauses three and four amend the Summary Courts Act to give magistrates the full protection of the law, as promised previously in Parliament, even as judges and masters have full immunity.

“We are looking at magistrates operating with full powers but with no protection.”

Al-Rawi said the bill allows courts to operate virtually, where attorneys can easily swear in clients in their offices by a simple affirmation. He said the bill allows an extension for the pandemic period under the Limitation of Certain Actions Act.

He said the bill also raises the penalty for cruelty to animals up to $100,000 and five years' jail, under the Summary Offences Act, saying, “Our society has demonstrated it has to be ‘mannersed’ in terms of cruelty to animals. We have to do better.”

The bill also fixes a drafting error in the recent cannabis provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The bill amends the Securities Act to allow the disgorging of illicit profits.

It also plugs “a massive loophole” in the Companies Act as he lamented the vast majority of TT’s 80,000 registered companies never disclose their shareholders, who nonetheless regularly take their share earnings. This bill helps reduce money laundering, he added.

The AG addressed senators’ concerns in his wrap-up. He said UK law expressly allows a disclosure of personal details such as tax in cases of criminal investigations. He rejected opposition Senator Saddam Hosein’s claim the Income Tax Act has no due process.

Al-Rawi denied opposition Senator Taharqa Obika’s claim the bill’s amendment of the Companies Act will hurt TT’s ease of doing business, but reiterated it will help fight money-laundering.

“Nobody has been paying attention to the companies regime, but as a lawyer I’m determined to make a dent in loopholes.”

The AG did not think the bill needed a three-fifths majority.

Al-Rawi addressed independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye’s concerns that TT’s age of child liability remains at seven years even as the UK had raised it to ten. Saying his government has done the most for children, he promised a legislative proposal, saying, “We are looking at the age of criminality for children.”

He promised a Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament within weeks.

The AG said magisterial protection was long overdue, and it was constitutionally wrong for Senator Mark to say the bill removed a right of appeal against magistrates' rulings.

The bill amends the acts on Summary Courts, Limitation of Certain Actions, Summary Offences, Dangerous Drugs, Mental Health, Children, Shipping, Plant Protection, Financial Intelligence Unit, Income Tax, Central Bank, Financial Institutions, Companies, Securities, CARIRI, Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic and Magistrates Protection.

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