A police officer supervises a line of shoppers outside RAMS supermarket along the Bay Road in Basseterre in April 2020 (Spokesman Snap)

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Wednesday 31st March 2021)-Attorney General Vincent Byron Jr. is of the view that issuing fine tickets to individuals for not wearing a facemask in public amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can encourage individuals to comply with the legislation which asks members of the public to do so.

“It’s one thing to say so but if you’re going to have an enforcement it’s what changes people’s behavior so that’s really the issue,” he stated in replying to a question posed to this reporter while interacting with media workers on Sunday 21st March 2021 in giving an update about the printing of such tickets.
The provisions of the COVID-19 Act of 2020 require persons to wear face masks when in public spaces especially when in the company of other persons.

Penalties for not following the mask regulations could see a $500 issued ticket, court fine up to $5000 or imprisonment.

In responding to when the tickets are expected to be printed, Byron shared: “That is a matter for the National Security [ministry] as the tickets have been gazetted. The actual legislation has been gazetted. We have been to parliament- as you may recall some weeks ago- on the face masks on those tickets, and so the forms are there so basically it’s just to make arrangement with the government printery and they would have them shortly.”
He pointed out that there is no deadline and that such is an operational matter.

Additionally, Byron informed that an announcement would be made so that members of the public would be aware.
“It does not mean people must not, however, continue to wear their face masks and to adhere to the law and the regulation because everybody is aware of it but this is a means of trying to have people to change their behavior-those who are not- because most people are doing so we welcome that but we hope that people would adhere to the regulations.

“It is for all of us…even if you yourself won’t get it at least you can protect other people by wearing your face masks,” he encouraged the importance of protecting against the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a face mask.
When quizzed by a reporter about whether stiffer penalties can be expected in light of recent quarantine breaches, Byron had this to say: “At this point in time there is no particular discussion on that. I think the law is quite clear. I think the law is quite appropriate  and it’s a matter of enforcement  and what would have happened is that  we have had a very recent case in Nevis  where we had two separate breaches  and in each of those cases  charges were proffered and the individuals went to court  and plead guilty  and the courts awarded a fine . In fines and generally in sentencing , the court has the discretion up to a certain level so this was up to $5000 per breach. The court did not choose to enforce the maximum… The quantum being high does not necessarily mean that it’s going to make a difference …if you’re going to be charged you’re going to have to pay something when found in breach.”

He noted that such is a sanction given against an individual “and we hope that in itself would act as a deterrent to others who will not do the same thing in the future.”