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Senate approves tough anti-gang laws

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2018. 1:42 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: The Senate, this week, approved the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Amendment Bill, which introduces stiffer penalties for gang-related crimes.

The amendments were unveiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs last month as part of its National Crime Fighting Strategy 2018-2020.

Under the new amendments, “A person who is a gang member, or in order to gain unlawful benefit professes to be a gang member, commits an offense and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term no exceeding 10 years”.

Any subsequent conviction for the same offense can land an accused gang member in jail for as many as 25 years.

There are even stiffer penalties being applied for so-called gang leaders. A person convicted of being a gang-leader can serve a maximum sentence of 25 years and a subsequent conviction lead to a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Becoming aggressive or violent towards authorities now carries a stiffer penalty as well. “A gang member who intentionally, by any means necessary, wounds or causes grievous bodily harm, or shoots at with intent to do some grievous bodily harm, a police officer, a prison officer, a member of the Belize Defense Force, a member of the Belize Coast Guard, an Income Tax officer…commits an offense, and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 years.”

A person deemed as a “gang sympathizer” can now also face jail time up to 20 years for assisting, aiding or abetting gang members carrying out gang activity. Anyone found harboring gang members can also serve a 5 year jail sentence.

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