Getting drunk could land you in jail
In a week from now, Jamaicans, like millions of people around the world, will be celebrating the birth of Christ. It is not disputed that in many parts of the world the celebration is more commercial than religious. No doubt, some of the commercial activities can land you into big trouble, especially if you commit an offence under the Towns and Communities Act of 1843.
Generally, to commit an offence under the Act, it must be done in a town and in a public place. The Act defines a town as all cities and villages. This seems like everywhere in Jamaica. A public place is defined in the Act to include 'every road, street, footpath, court, square, lane, alley, public building, park, garden, church, wharves, passenger ship, theatre, bar', among other places.
You will note that under the Act there is a long list of don'ts on the highways or public thoroughfares and provides for any constable to take the offender into custody without a warrant in circumstances where the offence is committed in view of the constable.
It is also an offence, under the Act, to expose goods for sale on any highway or thoroughfare, or beat or shake any carpet, rug or mat, except doormats, before 8 a.m. Likewise, it is an offence to empty any privy [urine] or move any night soils [faeces] between the hours of 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. You are not permitted to keep any pigsty in front of any thoroughfare, expose goods for sale on piazzas without the consent of the owners or disrupt any public worship.
It is also an offence for persons, while drunk, to remain in any public place; and if you are drunk, loose or disorderly, you may be taken into custody without a warrant by any constable for disturbing the public peace. Likewise, if you are found drunk lying about the streets or other public places or on any piazza, you shall be deemed to have committed a crime.
Anyone who causes noisy and disorderly conduct in any town or public place shall be deemed violators of the public peace. This certainly would include the activating, discharging and throwing of squibs or firecrackers. Persons who trade in firecrackers must also be warned that an import permit is required to bring firecrackers into Jamaica. Also, under the Act, it shall not be lawful to discharge any firearm within 500 yards of any dwelling house to the annoyance of any inhabitants.
The said Act also places restrictions on the opening of places of business, in that no person shall open any place of business on Sundays, Good Friday or Christmas. Exceptions are provided for pharmacies, shops at our international airports and activities at public wharves.
Persons taken into custody in the daytime for breach of any provisions under this Act, shall be forthwith taken to a justice or if after 6 p.m., deliver to the custody of the sergeant at the nearest police station.
The prosecution of any offence punishable on summary conviction shall commence within three calendar months after the commission of the offence.
With the Towns and Communities Act and the many similar pieces of legislations still in force in Jamaica, one is compelled to ask why there is so much disorder in our cities, towns and communities?
To the many readers of the column, Merry Christmas when it comes.