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Faris: 10,000 abortions each year

By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, February 12 2014

PNM SENATOR Faris Al Rawi yesterday stated there are 10,000 cases of abortions and still births involving teenagers per year, as he called for tougher penalties to punish persons found guilty of selling intoxicating liquor to minors.

“That is a societal issue we are all grappling with,” Al Rawi said, speaking during debate of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Licensing Committee) Bill, 2014.

Asked where he got the figure from, the Senator said he got the information from Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan and Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh (who were not in the Senate yesterday).

Al Rawi called for a beefing-up of the laws banning the sale of alcohol to minors.

Section 60 of the Liquor Licences Act makes it an offence for a person to sell “intoxicating liquour to a child under the age of eighteen years, whether for the child’s own use or not”.

Under the current law, the penalty for this is a fine of $2,000 (first conviction) or $5,000 (second conviction) or $7,500 (third conviction). A liquor licence is also suspended for a year.

The legislation proposes to increase these fines to $7,500; $10,000 and $15,000 respectively.

Additionally, a proprietor will be stripped of their liqour licence if they are found guilty of the offence for a third time.

“There is currently no jail sentence for this offence and my proposal is that we add a jail sentence,” he said. “We really ought to be looking at our children and their protection.”

Al Rawi also critcised several aspects of the bill, including its set up of new lisencing committees – led by clerks of the peace – to do the work of magistrates.

He said while the committees would comprise stakeholders such as members of local business groups, this would be a difficult matter because there could be competing claims from different interest groups in the same area.

“How does one define local business associations?” he said. He also queried whether there are enough clerks of the peace to staff the measures.

He also criticised the phrasing of a provision meant to penalise persons for failing to declare conflicts of interest.

He noted the provision banned persons from furthering the interests of persons related to them, “or any other person”. This phrase, he said, was too broad.

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