Legal Eagle : Persons can be arrested for supporting crimes

January 16, 2017

Criminologists and statisticians will tell you that, save for murder, major crimes have been trending downwards in Jamaica in the last two years or so. Even if true, the brazen and gruesome nature of some of the murders produced a chill, which belies the statistics.

Usually, after these heinous crimes, the police arrive on the scene and what is called an investigation commences. But oftentimes, the target of the investigation is the person or persons who physically cause that fatal wound. Too often, those who assisted before and after the crimes are ignored, and this approach might be a fatal flaw in police investigation approach for too long.

In law, those who assist before the commission of the crimes are described as 'accessories before the fact', and those who assist after the crimes are called 'accessories after the fact'.

 

PRINCIPAL FELON PUNISHMENT

 

It might surprise many that Section 35 of the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act provides that "whosoever shall counsel, procure, or command any other person to commit any felony ... may be indicted and convicted as accessory before the fact to the principal felony or may be indicted and convicted as a substantive felony," and may be punished in all respects as if he were the principal felon. Therefore, police investigators have a duty in law to ascertain whether or not anyone assisted the principal felon before the crime occurred. Felony, by definition, is a serious crime to include, among other things, murder and rape.

With respect to accessories after the fact, Section 36 of the Act provides that whosoever becomes accessories after the fact to any felony may be indicted and convicted as accessory after the fact to the principal felon, together with the principal felon or after the conviction of the principal felon. Persons found guilty shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned. On many occasions, those who commit these horrible crime are not caught immediately, yet there is hardly any arrest, prosecution or conviction of those who shelter or provide support to those felons.

Regarding accessories generally, it must be noted that even where the principal felon has been convicted or dead, whether the accessories is before or after the fact, the accessory, upon conviction, shall suffer the same punishment as if the accessory is before the court.

The provisions of the law mentioned above should be used effectively to send a strong message to all those who support the commission of a crime, at any rung of the ladder.

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