Customs officials gain extra powers

A Bill passed in the Legislative Assembly makes provision for customs officers to use handcuffs, batons and defence spray in the discharge of their duties.

The Bill that went before the House seeks to amend the Customs Law (2006 Revision) to allow customs officers to carry and use certain equipment and materials in the discharge of their duties. It is called the Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2006.

In the Legislative Assembly last week Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, explained that the Bill provides for augmenting the powers of the Collector of Customs, expanding the range of equipment and materials that may be issued to and used by customs officers and making certain provisions for the role of customs officers in law enforcement.

‘As criminal methods and crime-fighting techniques have evolved over the years, so has the nature of the Customs Department where safety, security and law and order are as paramount as generating revenue.

‘In carrying out their duties, customs officers face situations where human behaviour is unpredictable and where situations can easily become dangerous for themselves and the general public.’

He noted that, at present, customs officers cannot, by law, carry equipment, which can be used for protection and apprehension. They must rely on the availability of the police to respond and assist in instances where detention or arrest is required.

Section 9A (1) of the Bill reads, ‘The collector shall have power to provide officers with equipment, clothing, appointments, cleaning materials, insecticides and such other things as may be necessary or expedient for the performance of their duties and, to this end, may issue to customs officers a double-lock handcuff, 22′ to 24′ expandable baton and defence spray’.

These items can only be used for customs and related purposes, the bill states.

It also notes that the collector is not permitted to issue firearms to customs officers.

Another amendment to the Law states that customs officers are employed for the maintenance and enforcement of law and order, the preservation of peace, the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime, and the apprehension of offenders.

Section 9B, Subsection 3 reads, ‘An officer performing duties directly relating to customs has, when on duty, the same powers and privileges as are conferred on a constable by the Police Law (2006 Revision) but shall not carry a firearm’.

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