According to the Minister of Energy and the Environment Elizabeth Thompson, the Cabinet recently approved “a comprehensive Environmental Management Act for Barbados”. (Barbados Advocate article link here.)
While we are pleased to see the Government finally taking steps to provide Barbados with modern and enforcible environmental laws, nobody should get too excited because Cabinet approval is only the first step in a process that will take many months or even years before we see actual law in place. After 12 years of not one single environmental dumping charge laid, we will not hold our breath for this present government to produce actual results. Barbados has come to expect talk, studies and more announcements like this one. Real results? No.
But as long as we have Minister Thompson and the Owen Arthur government thinking about the environment, let’s talk about enforcement of environmental laws. Here is our position…
Forget About Using The Police To Enforce Environmental Laws
For at least the last year, and perhaps much longer, Environment Minister Thompson has been going on and on about how she wrote two letters – one to the police and one to the previous Attorney General – to try and have some attention paid to enforcing environmental laws. In February, she mused about having the police go undercover at illegal dumpsites. In May, she blamed the police for not trying to catch people dumping garbage by the roadside, and just last week she was again whining in public about those two letters she wrote a year ago.
Liz – get over it. The Royal Barbados Police Force is not coming to the party. The police are currently 130 officers under strength, violent crime is escalating in Barbados as it is everywhere, and they are busy preparing for Cricket World Cup 2007 – the largest and certainly the most demanding security operation they have ever undertaken. And that is even without considering that some of the participating nations near and far are hotbeds of Muslim terrorism.
The police are not interested in environmental investigations and if they are somehow ordered to act, they will only provide lip-service and feign activity. The police rightly believe that they lack the specialized knowledge and training to enforce environmental law – and that their priorities have to be elsewhere – violent crime, public order and safety.
So forget about using the police to enforce environmental laws. The police might agree to an occasional secondary support role, but to expect anything more is simply unrealistic – and is not the best solution anyway.
Barbados Needs Trained Environmental Enforcement Specialists
The Ministry of the Environment should form it’s own Environmental Law Enforcement Squad to investigate violations, gather evidence, bring charges before the court and to work with the prosecution to prepare and present cases at trial. This is what is done in most other jurisdictions because only a specialized environmental enforcement unit can build the necessary longterm knowledge, training and experience to be effective.
Introducing the B.E.E.S. – Barbados Environmental Enforcement Squad
“Obey Environmental Laws Or You Will BEE Stung”
Here is the outline of a plan… (Thanks to our advisor “H”)
* Start with just two investigators – one older hand with wisdom and one younger and full of energy, but both quality people. These two will be the core of the “Barbados Environmental Enforcement Squad” (BEES).
* Assign one prosecutor from the Attorney General’s office to handle all environmental prosecutions. This person will also advise BEES during investigations, so the proper evidence and evidence gathering techniques will be used.
* If laws need to be changed to allow the BEES to lay charges, do so. Empower them to handle their own charges upon consultation with the AG’s office.
* Institute a training programme for the BEES. Train them in how to properly gather evidence, and to prepare and present a case in court. Set up short, but regular meetings with the Attorney General’s environmental prosecutor so the BEES and the AG’s office continue working towards the common cause.
* Have the police appoint a liaison officer to assist in training the BEES in evidence gathering and case presentation. Perhaps allow the BEES to attend police training classes in evidence gathering and case presentation. Once again, set up regularly scheduled short meetings between the BEES and the police liaison officer. Let the people get to know each other personally and they will help each other… works every time!
* Send the BEES to visit other Environmental Enforcement Squads to observe and learn. Have them visit real working environmental enforcement units in a few countries. They will make friends and learn techniques and strategies that would take years to develop on their own. This will provide a huge jump-start for the BEES and make them more effective sooner.
* Start Right Now even if effective laws are not yet in place. Even if the BEES were created today, it will take time for the squad to become trained and connected. Put them in place now and the learning can begin. The BEES can also start to gather evidence and intelligence about major polluters so they are ready to sting as better laws come into force.
* Choose the initial prosecutions carefully and win every one. Quality, not quantity is the goal, and this should be possible if the AG’s prosecutor is advising at every stage of the first cases – right from complaint, through investigation, charges and case presentation in court. If the BEES become known for having a 100% conviction rate, offenders will start to clean up and modify behaviours with just a phone call.
Barbados Needs Enforcible, Modern Environmental Laws
The Barbados Ministry of the Environment hasn’t laid a charge in 12 years, and a big part of that might be a lack of enforcible laws. The Owen Arthur government has had 12 years to create and pass effective environmental laws, but has only just announced this week that some sort of process has begun.
post by Marcus, with a little help from friend “H”.