The parliament last week approved legislation intended to clamp down on gang violence and gang related crime, and sent it to the President for ratification.
The Maldives Police Service has complained on several occasions that violent criminals are released into society because of missing laws on gang violence, and urged MPs to approve the bill.
The law enacted by parliament states says that any person who “unites himself” to a gang formed with the intention to commit unlawful crimes, shall serve on to five years imprisonment.
The approved bill defines a gang as “a group which consists of more than three persons where the main objective is to commit crimes”.
According to the new law, any person identified as the leader of such a gang shall be imprisoned for two to seven years.
By a word a person says or by an act a person commits, or by any means if a person represents that he is a gang member, is now a crime according to the law and punishable with imprisonment for between six to 18 months.
Aiding or supplying a gang is also a crime under the law, with prison sentences up to seven years and fines of up to Rf500,000 (US$39,000).
Furthermore, any person who threatens a witness shall be imprisoned for six to 18 months, and any person who attacks a witness or is the cause of an attack on a witness shall be imprisoned for between three to seven years.
The law also states that planning to assault anybody is now a crime with a sentence of between six to 18 months jail, while actually assault is a sentence of between six to 12 years in jail.
Meanwhile, gang violence continues Male’ with an 18 year-old in intensive care are he was stabbed at 11:45pm last night.
A 16-year-old boy was also stabbed on Thursday night.
The gang crimes bill, submitted in August last year, effectively criminalises gang activities by banning membership and recruiting, and criminalising financial support. It will now be a crime to take over a street corner or paint logos of your gang, while the recently ratified anti-social behaviour bill imposes a curfew of 11:00pm on minors while children under 16 cannot go out without a guardian after 9:00pm.
Police meanwhile insist that their operations are futile as long as sentences remain unenforced.
Following the murder of an 18-year-old in March 2009, the sixth gang-related murder in the capital since December 2007, Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh revealed that “over 500 convicts” were loose in society.
The army had to be deployed in Male’ in April 2008 after 15-year-old Shifau Ismail was killed. Another minor, Ahmed Shaneed, 15, was stabbed to death on the eve of the second round of presidential elections in October 2008.
In December 2008, Samir Abdul Mueen, 23, died after being stabbed multiple times by a group of assailants on motorbikes.
Faseeh argued that the system created repeat offenders when the majority of cases sent for prosecution did not result in convictions.
A young boy first arrested for stealing a bottle of Denim went on to become involved in the biggest case of theft in the capital while his previous cases were pending at the PG’s office, Faseeh revealed.
Another suspect involved in multiple cases of gang violence was arrested for assaulting a police officer, while six cases sent to the PG’s office had not reached court, Faseeh added.