Legal Eagle : Dancehall, guns and the law
Recently, music videos portraying the use of what appears to be high-powered weapons, ammunition, police service vehicles and uniforms as well as security company armoured vehicles and uniforms, have attracted some public interest and condemnation.
They have also led to the commencement of an investigation from the Jamaica Constabulary Force to ascertain if there is any breach of the Constabulary Force Act and the Firearms Act.
At the centre of the controversy are recently released videos After All by Alkaline and Infrared by Masicka and Vybz Kartel.
The Constabulary Force Act provides in Section 27: "If any person shall have in his possession any arms, ammunition, clothing, accoutrement, or other appointments furnished for the use of the Force and shall not satisfactorily account for his possession thereof, or if any person shall put on or assume the dress, name, designation, or description of, and assume to act as, or to personate a Constable of the Force, every person so offending shall on summary conviction, in addition to any other punishment to which he shall have subjected himself, be liable to a penalty not exceeding $20 or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, not exceeding three months."
Section 28 of the said Act provides: "If any person, not being a member of the Force, wears without the permission of the Commissioner of Police uniform of the Force, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the distinctive marks of that uniform, he shall on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding $20 and in default of payment, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding three months."
It is also likely that the police might have an interest in investigating what appears to be a breach of the Firearms Act, in particular Section 20, which makes it an offence for anyone to have an illegal firearm in his possession.
The major problem for the police and/or prosecution is to ascertain that the firearms seen in the videos are not fake.
This is most difficult to prove without subjecting the firearms to forensic tests. In addition, the prosecution would also have an uphill task to have the video admitted into evidence against those who appear to have these weapons in their possession.
However, hope is not lost, as according to news reports, the person who made the video has now come forward and apologised, but also defended the artiste's right to creative expressions.
An apology is a good start, but the courts might have to determine whether or not there is a limit to creative expressions, especially if it breaches the laws.
There are many questions to be asked about these eye-popping videos being circulated on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet by our dancehall music stars.
With very meticulous and comprehensive police investigations, these questions can be answered and it is very likely that the police or the courts might establish a red line that should not be crossed by artistes and their video directors.
The role of the police is clear. They must investigate. If there is a breach of the criminal law, make an arrest, charge and place the accused before a judge.