A Peek Into The New Criminal Code
Good Day, Citizens of St. Lucia. Another Monday is upon us and the festive
season draws closer and closer.
But what an unusual season of rain. I cannot recall another month of November
when we had as much rain as we have had this past month. It has been rain and
more rain. Those who believe that the weather patterns are changing may well
find evidence in this unusually high rainfall.
As the year draws to a close, our minds naturally, will focus on the new year.
One of the developments which we need to be aware of is the commencement or
coming into force of the new Criminal Code.
REMEMBER THE CRIMINAL CODE?
Of course, you remember the Criminal Code, don’t you? After all, the Code was
made famous by the so-called “abortion debate” over Section 165 and Section 166.
That debate will go down as one of the more colourful episodes in our recent
parliamentary history. Unfortunately, that debate overshadowed the other
provisions of the Code.
This Criminal Code, will, once it comes into force, be a major tool in our fight
against crime. It is the most modern statement of Criminal Law in the
A LITTLE HISTORY
But first, a little history of our Criminal Code… Our original Code was written
84 years ago in 1920, and possibly before then. In fact, it had its source in a
draft prepared by the Colonial Office in London for use in West Africa. It was
first revised in 1957 and again in 1992. The 1992 revisions were minor, largely
As the Leader of Government Business in the House, Hon Mario Michel, explained
when he presented the New Criminal Code to Parliament last year, while the world
has changed much since 1920, the Code continued to reflect many of the laws that
were written for the 1920s. Not only have times and people changed, but so too
has the nature, extent and complexity of crime.
Many of the provisions of the old Code were archaic and totally useless. Some
addressed problems that no longer existed. Many provisions were irrelevant and
incapable of enforcement. That is why one of the main objectives of the
Government these past seven years has been to revise and modernize our laws. The
new Criminal Code is one such project. Indeed, early next year, St. Lucia will
have a revised edition of all of its laws, the first since 1957.
THE NEW CRIMINAL CODE
Now, back to the new Criminal Code. It is a comprehensive body of law. It
comprises 1,264 Sections and Seven Schedules, all in 868 pages.
In the drafting of this new Code, several provisions of the Old Code were
removed. Some of the old provisions were retained because of their continuing
relevance. Some clauses were refined with textual amendments. In other cases,
new provisions were introduced.
A STAKE IN THE NEW CODE
Everyone has a stake in this new Code. It takes a comprehensive look at every
aspect of crime. It provides for Offenses Against the Person, such as homicide,
assaults, sexual offenses, theft, forgery, bankruptcy, fraud, extortion and
damage to property. It identifies the Offenses Against Public Order and Offenses
Against the Administration of Justice. It makes provisions for Arrest and Bail.
Search and Seizure, Trials, Appeals, Punishment, Imprisonment, Parole,
Probation, Fines and Compensation, Pardon, Remission and Reward.
REPEAL OF OLD LAWS
In introducing the Code to Parliament, the Leader of Government Business in the
House, Hon Mario Michel, referred to some of the old laws that were deleted
because they no longer stood the test of time. Take, for example, Section 492 of
the Old Code. That provision says that whoever beats or shakes a mat on the
sidewalk or roadside between 6am and 6pm, would be committing an offense. That
provision had its roots in the old days when people shook their mats on their
doorsteps and enveloped passersby in dust. I could well imagine that such acts
were often used to express hostility and insult. Now, try enforcing that law
today. It simply had to go, so, it was expunged.
Another provision that was done away with was Section 40. That section said that
disobedient servants could be corrected by physical punishment, including
beating by their masters. Clearly, this was an absurd law.
Consistent with the spirit of the times, Section 41 of the Old Code gave any
adult the authority to correct (meaning beat) any child under the age of 16 for
disobedience. This law too was repealed, because it was inconsistent with modern
day ideas of parenting.
There are some novel provisions in the Code. Let us look at some of them. For
example, there are those who will be glad that there is a provision which
outlaws “stalking”. Stalking occurs, for example, when persons are put in fear
of their lives by others who maliciously and intentionally follow or harass
Section 119 makes it a crime for parents or guardians to refuse to report cases
of sexual abuse that are within their knowledge.
Then there is Section 139, which outlaws soliciting of sexual advances at
workplaces by employers. In effect, sexual harassment is now a criminal act.
This is an interesting provision.
It says in its entirety:
(1) It is an offence for an employer, or a supervisor of an employee to make it
reasonably appear to the employee that the prospects or working conditions of
the employee are dependent upon the acceptance or tolerance by the employee of
sexual advances or persistent sexual suggestions from the employer or
(2) It is an offence for a prospective employer to make it reasonably appear
(a) an offer of employment to that person;
(b) the terms on which employment is so offered;
is or are dependent on that person’s acceptance or tolerance of sexual advances
or tolerance of persistent sexual suggestions from the prospective employer.
(3) A person who commits an offence under sub-section (1) or (2) is liable on
summary conviction to imprisonment for one year.
Then there is Section 140 makes it an offense for anyone to intentionally or
recklessly infect someone else with HIV/AIDS.
This is new law!
Section 267 is another modern provision. It is aimed at tackling a situation
that never existed in 1920 or 1957. This section guards against Computer Fraud,
which was not an offense previously, simply because computers did not exist at
Other interesting provisions of the new Code are Sections 374 to 376. These
sections make what we know as “wanjeman” a criminal offence. You and I know what
“wanjeman” means. Sometimes when individuals commit criminal acts, particularly
against minors, they offer money to the injured or the parents of the minor to
induce them not to offer evidence in court, or to cooperate with the
Prosecution. Sometimes, these deals are arranged by lawyers. Now, these acts are
illegal because they pervert the course of justice.
A GENDER-NEUTRAL RAPE LAW
Major changes have also been effected to the law on Rape. The old law defined
Carnal Knowledge as unlawful sexual penetration between a man and a woman. The
new provision specifies that Carnal Knowledge could involve any gender, male or
female. In other words, an unlawful homosexual act can constitute rape. The new
clause also defines rape as any unsolicited or un-consensual sex, with any other
Husbands and boyfriends, in particular, must be on their guard. There is now an
offence called “marital rape”. In other words, a husband could be charged for
raping his wife, in certain circumstances.
Listen to what Section 123 (3) says:
“A husband commits the offence of rape where he has sexual intercourse with his
wife without her consent by force, fear or the use of a drug or thing with
intent to stupefy or overpower her where there is in existence, in relation to
them – (a) a decree nisi of divorce or nullity granted under the Divorce Act; (b)a
decree of judicial separation granted under the Civil Code; (c) a separation
agreement or where the parties are in fact separated; or (d) a peace binding
order or an order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual
intercourse with her, including a protection order from the Family Court.
Section 123 (4) says: The provisions of sub-section (3) shall apply, mutatis
mutandis, to a wife who commits the offence of rape.
Section 123 (5) says: A husband or wife who commits the offence of rape is
liable on conviction to imprisonment for fourteen years.
So, husbands (and wives) beware!
The new Criminal Code has also introduced stiffer penalties. Let us look,
quickly, at some penalties for a few common crimes. A person who commits rape
could be imprisoned for life. The offense of unlawful sexual connection can
attract a penalty of fourteen years in prison. The penalty for theft on
conviction on indictment renders the offender liable to imprisonment for
fourteen years. Aggravated burglary, that is, burglary committed with a firearm,
explosive or any weapon of offense renders the offender liable, on indictment,
to imprisonment for life. Any person who is guilty of preventing another person
from giving evidence in court is liable, on conviction on indictment, to
imprisonment for seven years. I hope Arthur Charles hears this!
So, as Velon John would say, the message to the criminals is “pellucidly clear.”
The days of kind and generous sentences are simply over.
Ask yourself now: Is this Government soft on crime? Think about it as the week
Take Care and Be of Good Cheer. God Bless!