While the Supreme Court has held the vagrancy act to be unconstitutional, Police Minister Bryan Kramer says there are existing provisions within the law where police and judiciary can use to address this social problem.
The uncontrolled movement of people into cities, better known as urban drift, exerts pressure on the limited resources of these areas. One good example is the manpower shortage of the NCD police, where the ratio of police to people is 1 is to 1,000.
In response to the recent Erima disturbance near the unplanned Taripex settlement, including the September 29th chaos at Port Moresby’s Two-Mile Hill, Kramer said the Government is looking at applying the District Courts Act 1963, section 205B, where the district court has the power to restrict movement.
“So rather than just applying the vagrancy act across the board, to anybody walking down the street, we target it to specific people that are known criminals or who break the law. So in terms of a street seller or pickpocket or someone living in a settlement who is a nuisance to the settlement, and complaints are filed, they’re charged and come before the district court.”
At the district court, in addition to other punishments imposed, Kramer said the police can make an application to the court to say the offender has no known address hence they request for that individual to serve his or her punishment in their home province.
“And on that basis, he is then repatriated to his province and serves time in his province,” he said. “And therefore taking him out of communities where he’s a nuisance. At the same time, under section 205, it does provide for the punishment/penalty that the court can direct that he’s not to return to that location or any specific location or province, for up to five years.”
The District Courts Act 1963:
205B. RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENT.
(1) Notwithstanding that restriction of movement is not specified as a punishment for an offence, a District Court may, in addition to any other punishment or punishments imposed, also impose restriction of movement in accordance with this section.
(2) When a District Court is considering the punishment or punishments to be imposed in any case it shall also consider whether, in the circumstances of the case, restriction of movement is an appropriate punishment.
(3) Where a person is convicted of an offence, the District Court that convicts him may, in addition to or instead of any other punishment that may be imposed, order him–
(a) not to come or be within such part of the country as the District Court specifies; or
(b) to be returned to his home, as specified by the District Court,
during such period, not exceeding five years, as is specified by the court.
(Police Minister Bryan Kramer)