The bill is intended to replace the current Crimes Act which has been in existence since 1969 and is widely seen as being outdated with criminal law here needing overall reform.
The 338-page bill has 23 parts and when it’s passed by Parliament, the Act will be administered by the police.
At least three lawyers were expected to come before the select committee yesterday to make submissions, Norman George, Mike Mitchell and Mark Short.
George said the bill contained many areas of concern including penalties, sentencing practices and new laws.
Clerk of Parliament John Tangi said the only submission already before the Select Committee was by Te Tiare Association representing the country’s LGBT community.
Tangi says those wanting to make submissions before the Select Committee advise him of their intensions and areas of interest.
“I will schedule a meeting timetable in consultation with the chairman of the committee, and advise the individuals or groups accordingly.”
Cook Islands Law Society president Wilkie Rasmussen said the executive planned to meet yesterday to plan their submission on the Crimes Bill. However, he was reluctant to identify the society’s areas of concern before the meeting took place.
One reform made to the Crimes Bill 2017 is the elimination of the section covering “witchcraft” which now carries a sentence of six months’ imprisonment.
Animal welfare groups are expected to lobby for more robust penalties for cruelty to animals. The current Act provides for imprisonment of up to a month or merely a $20 fine for a wide range of cruelty offences. The new bill proposes imprisonment for up to three years for intentional cruelty, but does not include monetary fines
The bill’s explanatory note says the new Act will be “a comprehensive, modern criminal code for the Cook Islands.”
It draws heavily on the Australian Model Criminal Code, with adaptations to suit present Cook Islands’ law and conditions.
The select committee hearings are expected to continue for some days.