BARBADOS: Judge, lawyers give qualified support for ending 40-year-old camouflage law

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SOURCE- BARBADOS TODAY- Amid the home affairs minister’s call for decriminalising the wearing of camouflage, a top jurist has suggested it should only remain an offence if used in committing a crime. And the outspoken judge has received the backing of prominent defence barristers.

Justice Carlisle Greaves weighed in on the matter in the No. 3 Supreme Court on Friday in a trial involving unlawful possession of guns, ammunition, and several pieces of camouflage clothing, including four pairs of pants, eight jackets, a t-shirt and a hat.

“I think that perhaps the way to deal with it . . . would be not simply make it an offence for the possession of the camouflage material in this modern era when designers are using it to make all kinds of attractive things . . . but to make it an offence for possession of the material for purpose of committing an offence,” said the High Court judge. “And you can go further – the offence such as the use of the material for the commission of an offence or in the commission of an offence.

“I think that will be more justifiable – they can say what offence – serious offence, indictable offence, a summary offence. I think that would be a correct approach to take.”

Senior Counsel Michael Lashley who was representing the convicted man in the camouflage and guns case along with attorney Simon Clarke, agreed with Justice Greaves.

Lashley later told Barbados TODAY: “I would actually take it off the law books, but my compromise would be that they would have to amend it only where it is used in the commission of an offence.”

Section 188 of the Defence Act provides that unauthorised wearing in public of any uniform or part thereof, or any article of clothing made from any of the disruptive pattern materials used for making the military uniform commonly called the “camouflage uniform”, or even reproduction of Barbados Defence Force (BDF) “regimental or other distinctive marks” are offences. The penalty is a fine of $2 000 or one-year imprisonment or both.

Defence attorney Harry Husbands also backed Justice Greaves’ suggestion.

“If the concern about camouflage being a print that is the uniform of the Barbados Defence Force . . . it should be an offence . . . to possess the uniform without the necessary authority,” he told Barbados TODAY.

“Any article of clothing that is issued by the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) should not be worn by a member of the public – I can be okay with that. If you are going to make it illegal, I suggest that it is for the purpose of being an imposter or trying to purport to be a member of the BDF, similar to if you purport to be a member of The Barbados Police Service, that that would be an offence. So, I would agree with Justice Greaves on this.”

Back in February, Home Affairs Minister Wilfred Abrahams SC called for the wearing of camouflage to be decriminalised. Speaking in Parliament on the Law Revision and Law (Amendment Bill), which sought to amend or repeal outdated legislation, he contended that the ban on camouflage was among outdated statutes. But he made clear that this was “his position” and not that of the government.

“If ever there was a piece of legislation that needed changing, it was that,” Abrahams said about the regulations which were introduced around the October 1983 United States-led military intervention into Grenada that followed the bloody coup in which Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and ministerial colleagues were assassinated. Barbados was a staging post for the invasion.

“I could understand that at the time that legislation was passed. . . . I believe that was around the time of the Grenada situation where there were a lot of armed forces in Barbados all at the same time. So all through Barbados, you had different types of camouflage . . . so you didn’t want any confusion with the armed forces.

That’s the substance. You didn’t want anybody impersonating a member of the armed forces,” said Abrahams.

“So it cannot possibly extend to the fashion that camouflage is now. That cannot possibly extend to a camouflage party dress, it definitely cannot extend to the camouflage speedo. So, my point is, these are things that, . . . to me, need to be relooked.”

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