By Orville Williams
Despite a request from Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin to increase the fines for Covid-19 protocol violations – including the breaking of curfew – the Cabinet has decided not to go that route.
Earlier this week, Benjamin stated his intention to request that the Cabinet should double the fines for the violations, as persons continued to disregard the rules in place. He noted that the impact on the ‘pockets’ of the violators was necessary, as they seemed not to respect voluntary adherence.
During yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas confirmed that the request had indeed been made and though it was taken under consideration, the Cabinet ultimately decided against increasing the fines.
“We considered it, but we did not increase the fines [because] we believe that there [are] sufficient negative reasons why people would not want to pay any fines for that matter, given the financial circumstances that most individuals and families find themselves in,” Nicholas explained.
While that particular request from the AG did not come to fruition, the Cabinet did address his call for more measures to improve adherence to the protocols. Nicholas said this would come in the form of additional personnel to assist the police in monitoring public’s behaviour and enforcing the rules currently in place.
“It’s a question of enforcement and you would see one of the other measures that we took with respect to [that], is to employ a number of persons to assist the police in observing, certainly surveilling and helping with the whole question of enforcement.
“Accordingly, [with] the decision to engage the services of what we will have as special constables, the Attorney General has been asked to recruit these persons. Again, these persons would be civilian individuals who are part of the established government services, where they may not be fully occupied. We believe that we can divert some of those resources, give them the necessary training and equip them under the law, to be able to support the police in these measures.”
The current rules note that curfew violators face up to a $5,000 fine, jail time, or both punishments, while residents who fail to adhere to the mask-wearing or social gathering protocols will be fined $500.