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AG proposes steep increase in fines for Covid protocol violations

By Kadeem Joseph

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If the Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin has his way, residents could pay double the fines associated with breaking Covid-19 protocols.

Benjamin told Observer it is apparent that residents are failing to comply with the outlined regulations, a situation which cannot be allowed to continue.

The AG said that he drove around the city of St John’s recently and observed motorists seemingly flouting the curfew restrictions.

“There is a flagrant abuse and disregard for the wearing of face masks; they refuse to do so. Also, they pay scant regard for social distancing … the third requirement of the washing of hands appears not to be followed at all. That being the case, we must take strong measures to send a clear message that this will not be tolerated,” he explained further.

The AG said that it is for these reasons that, on Wednesday, he will propose to the Cabinet that the fines associated with these breaches be increased “two-fold” to act as a deterrent to individuals who are acting irresponsibly.

“I believe that since they fail to comply voluntarily, we will increase the fine significantly to hurt them where it matters most, that is in the pocket,” he added.

Benjamin also indicated the government will consider implementing a fine for individuals who pay social visits to people who should be quarantined.

The AG also warned residents not to take these matters lightly because a conviction could lead to long lasting repercussions.

The current penalties for curfew breakers are a maximum fine of $5,000, time in prison, or both – while offenders can also be ticketed $500 for failing to wear face masks, or failing to properly social distance.

“When people are convicted of these offences, they get a criminal record, and when persons seek employment years or months to come and you look at the record and see that person was convicted of failing to comply with regulations passed in these instances, employers would be reluctant to employ those persons,” Benjamin said, noting that businesses will be reluctant to trust these individuals since they failed to act responsibly on a matter which could ultimately be detrimental to themselves and others.

Benjamin also warned that convictions for these offences may hamper future US visa and Green Card applications since it could indicate that such individuals are “unreasonable” or “irresponsible”.

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