by Eulana Weekes
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force is advising individuals and groups to seek permission to hold public meetings. During last week’s edition of Policing With You, Inspector Carl Greaux of the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force informed the public on the penalties and other prohibited behavior related to the hosting of public meetings.
With another National General Election in the near future, public meetings are occurring more frequently and according to Inspector Greaux, some individuals and groups are not adhering to the law as outlined in the Public Meetings and Processions Act of St. Kitts and Nevis CAP 19.10.
“Since the House has been dissolved, individuals and groups have been having a number of public meetings and they are not going through the proper or right channels to hold these meetings. Hence, Commissioner [of Police] was advised and based on what he was advised, he has written to the individuals and groups involved [asking] them to do the correct thing, the right thing and follow the proper procedure for them to hold a public meeting.”
The Public Meetings and Processions Act of St.Kitts and Nevis states that any individual who desires to hold a meeting in a public place should notify the Chief of Police, not less than 48 hours and not more than fourteen days prior to the time of the desired public meeting.
The Act also explains that any individual who holds or speaks at any public meeting in a public place where no notice or insufficient notice has been given or the meeting is held contrary to any restrictions imposed by the Chief of Police commits an offense against the Public Meetings and Procession Act. Such individuals shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
In the event that approval for public meetings aren’t granted by the Chief of Police, a member of the Police Force may stop and cause the public meeting to be dispersed. Any member of the Police Force not below the rank of Corporal may direct the conduct of all meetings in public places and direct any public meeting to disperse if he or she has reasonable grounds for apprehending a breach of the peace at such meeting. Persons remaining at the scene of any public meeting which has been called upon or directed to be dispersed commits an offense against the Act and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding one thousand five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
According to the law, public meeting means any meeting, gathering, or assembly of persons, whether held in a public place or not, for the purpose of the discussion of matters of public interest or for the purpose of the expression of views on such matters; but shall not include any assembly of persons on private premises to which the public in general have no right of entry, nor bona fide religious services.
The Inspector of Police explained that permission must be granted for the use of noisy instruments, as these are apparatus used to enhance public meetings.
“It [The Act] goes on to speak about noisy instruments and these apparatus which are used to enhance whatever you are trying to express and also to enhance the public meeting itself. [These] include loudspeakers, loudhailers, megaphones, amplifiers, tape recorders and gramophones. Even making noise is an offense and that is why you have to make that application and express your intention to the Commissioner of Police, so that these can be allowed in order to enhance or to get your message across during these public meetings.”
The Public Meetings and Procession Act is an Act formulated to make provision for public meetings and processions in order to facilitate police arrangements for the preservation of order at public meetings and processions and to provide for related or incidental matters. The Act was revised on December 31, 2002.