Executive Council met today with eight items on the Open Agenda.
This was the first meeting since the decision was taken to publish papers and agendas for Executive Council Meetings and Members were pleased to note that there had been positive feedback from members of the public regarding this move.
Members first of all considered a proposal to enact Regulations relating to Mental Health and Mental Capacity which allows for someone, who may in the future lose their mental capacity, to give Lasting Power of Attorney to an individual with capacity to make decisions on their behalf when they are no longer able to do so. Members were happy to support this proposal seeing it as an important safeguard for vulnerable individuals.
The next item related to a proposal to amend the Port Health Ordinance and associated Regulations to provide legal authority to a Health Officer to inspect aircraft and make measures to control the spread of infection or contamination. Executive Council gave approval for the drafting of the legislation to go ahead.
There were two items relating to amending the Welfare of Children Ordinance. The first clarifies the circumstances under which children may be employed and defines concepts including hazardous work, illicit work, light work and work experience. The second item related to Cruelty to Children and proposed a widening of the definition of ill-treatment of children to include forms other than physical abuse such as mental and emotional abuse. In both cases, Members welcomed the enhanced safeguarding measures which the proposed amendments provide for and recommended that the amended Bills should be published in advance of their presentation at the December Legislative Council Session.
Members then went on to discuss whether there should be a legislation proposal to replace the jury system with a different system and proposed a number of options for further consideration. It was noted that there was an increase in the requirement for trials by jury, and in the last three sittings of the Supreme Court, there were eight jury trials and only one of these resulted in a conviction. The options for consideration include: extending the pool of jurors by making it compulsory to register on the electoral roll, moving to trial by judge alone, or judge and two lay Magistrates, increasing the Magistrate’s powers for certain offences, or adopting and adapting the Jurat system as used in some jurisdictions. There was robust debate and Members felt that the jury system is a civic responsibility and should remain. It was agreed that options should be explored to consider how the pool of jurors could be expanded including compulsory registration and there should be awareness raised about civic responsibility.
The next item to be discussed was the Domestic Abuse Bill 2017. It was noted that the Bill is a preventative measure which proposes civil options for families suffering from domestic abuse and who might be reluctant or unwilling to pursue criminal action against abusers. It allows for a case to be put to a Magistrate for a protection order to safeguard vulnerable families and will provide for relevant safeguards to be implemented. Members wholeheartedly supported the Bill ahead of its presentation at the December Legislative Council Session.
Members were then asked to endorse proposed sites for a new prison to be located in the Bottom Woods vicinity. Three sites have been identified, however an initial environmental assessment has deemed one of them to be unviable because it is within the Millennium Forest Nature Reserve. Members decided to give approval for two sites, one of which is West of the Meteorological Station, and the other known as the Goat Pen Area, to undergo further investigation regarding their suitability and to then be taken out to public consultation.
The final item on the Open Agenda related to amendments to the Social Security Regulations to address concerns and protect vulnerable individuals where the Social Security System provided for under the current Ordinance is unable to alleviate hardship. The amendment would allow for emergency provision to assist individuals. Members welcomed the interim measure but were mindful that issues relating to Household Status still remained and recognised that these would be addressed by the wider Benefits Review which is taking place.
On the Closed Agenda, Members were asked to consider and approve an increase in Passport Fees with a view to recovering the cost of administration relating to the issue of British Overseas Territory Passports and Emergency Passports. It was noted that the current costs are aligned to local administration, however going forward, these Passports will be produced in the UK and will attract higher costs. Members approved the recommendation.
Members were also pleased to learn that the RMS will be continuing to operate until February 2018 and that the forward schedule will include a final trip to Tristan da Cunha.
The meeting ended at 1.45pm.
3 October 2017