Rehab work to reduce crime continues

The Alternative Sentencing and Drug Court Bills passed by the legislature in late 2006 could be in use by the courts by mid-year, Acting Attorney General Cheryll Richards said Wednesday.

In moving the opening of Grand Court for 2007, Ms Richards reported on steps taken to reduce crime levels and improve the efficiency of the various rehabilitative systems.

The two bills passed focus on the root cause of crime and rehabilitation instead of punishment, she said. Administrative steps to underpin the legislation are to be put in place.

The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs is working to co-ordinate the logistics of electronic monitoring of offenders, she reported. Electronic tagging can be an alternative to imprisonment.

The ministry of Health and Human Services has put particular emphasis on the probation and After Care Unit, which has increased staff and is working on details of the drug rehabilitation programme.

The Sentencing Advisory Committee will meet soon to work out details. The intention is that everything will be in place administratively in the first half of this year, Ms Richards said.

She reported on the status of the DNA testing facility, which is due to be officially launched early this year. Significant steps have been taken towards building a data base and doing preliminary testing, as well as achieving accreditation, she said.

Ms Richards commended the commissioner of police and his officers for their efforts in 2006 which had resulted in a significant decrease in crime. For 2007, she said, the Portfolio of Legal Affairs hoped to continue a partnership with the police to implement a witness protection programme underpinned by legislation.

In 2006 the Law Reform Commission circulated the Residential Tenancies Bill for public consultation. Members are now considering submissions from a wide cross-section of the community, Ms Richards said.

The commission is also in the final stages of consultation on the Legal Practitioners Bill, which will deal with such serious issues as disciplinary regime for attorneys and eligibility to practise law in Cayman.

Work is also scheduled on an anti-discrimination bill to give effect to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and to review the circumstances of person with disabilities, as well as housing and employment issues.

A Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Bill will also be considered, Ms Richards said.