Mental Health, Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bills among legislation tabled in National Assembly
…Evidence, Condominium Bills also presented
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, in keeping with its commitments to a “robust” legislative agenda, on Wednesday laid a number of bills in the National Assembly during the opening session of the 46th sitting.
Among the bills laid was the Mental Health Protection and Promotion Bill 2022, which was presented by Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony. The bill aims to set up laws for providing mental health care and treatment for those suffering from mental health ailments.
According to Minister Anthony, the bill will “provide mental health care and treatment for persons with mental illness, and protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of those persons during the delivery of mental health care”.
The Minister further revealed that the bill would provide for the setting-up of a Mental Health Board, while repealing the mental hospital ordinance. A perusal of the bill shows that this Board, whose non-ex-officio members will hold office for three years and a maximum of three terms, will have a plethora of responsibilities.
These responsibilities include advising and assisting the Minister in the areas of mental health and promoting best practices when it comes to mental health care. They will also be tasked with inspecting all mental health-related facilities, with a view to making sure these facilities comply with the Act.
Clause 52 of the bill states that the board also has to “receive and investigate complaints on any matter connected with mental health care and treatment (and) undergo a periodic review at least once every six months of all persons receiving mental health care in a mental health facility”.
Other health bills
The Health Minister went go on to present two more bills, namely the Nurses and Midwives Bill 2022, which he described as a bill to make provisions for the registration and regulation of nurses, midwives, nursing assistants, and specialist nurses.
There had been talk of this bill since 2019, when General Nursing Council (GNC) Chairperson Linda Johnson had said that clauses in the then bill had been reviewed by the council itself to make sure they were consistent with laws in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
The other bill presented by Minister Anthony was the Radiation Safety and Security Bill 2022. It was described as a bill “to provide for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of ionising radiation, protect persons and the environment against the harmful effects of radioactive waste, establish the Radiation Safety and Security Board and for connected matters.
Meanwhile, the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill, laid by Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn, seeks to amend Section 36 of the principal Act. According to the bill’s explanatory memorandum, the Government is now seeking for juveniles who commit crimes with adults that cannot be treated summarily to be charged jointly.
“Presently, Section 3(bi) of the principal Act provides for the juvenile justice system to be separate from the system used for adults. Based on this provision, a juvenile would not appear before the court with an adult.
“This amendment seeks to remedy the issue of two separate charges being instituted where the juvenile commits an indictable offence which cannot be disposed of summarily with an adult. The current criminal justice system often results in witnesses testifying twice, leading to a significant increase in judicial time and expense,” the memorandum further states.
According to the bill, the Magistrate or Judge will still be allowed to employ any measure deemed appropriate by the court, to ensure that the best interest of the juvenile takes precedence. It was also noted that the rights of the juvenile, as stated in the Juvenile Justice Act, No 8 of 2018, will still be applicable.
The Evidence (Amendment) Bill of 2022 presented by Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, meanwhile, seeks to amend the Evidence Act, Chap. 5:03, by inserting a new section, 63A into the principal Act.
The amendments will now allow for a confession made by an accused in any proceedings to be used as evidence by the person’s co-accused – provided it is relevant to the matter at hand and has not been excluded by the court.
“In accordance with this proposed new section, the confession may be excluded by the court if that confession is obtained by oppression or is rendered unreliable… moreover, this amendment provided that the exclusion of a confession does not affect the admissibility of facts discovered as a result of that confession,” the bill’s explanatory memorandum says.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh presented the Tax (Amendment) Bill 2022, which seeks to amend the Tax Act. Additionally, Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal presented the Condominium Bill 2022.
The bill seeks to “make provision for the horizontal and vertical subdivision of land and buildings into units for individual ownership and to make provision for the use and management of condominiums and matters connected thereto”, it states. (G3)