Govt proposes life imprisonment and increased fines for petrol offences
The Gibraltar Government has published a Bill to amend the Petroleum Act and increase sentences and fines for those caught possessing fuel in large quantities, including the potential for life sentences in the most serious cases.
The Government said these stricter proposed laws come after an increase in people being found in possession of petrol canisters, on many occasions full of highly volatile automotive fuel.
A major concern is large amounts of fuel can combust and cause fatalities.
In a bid to target this the Government has proposed to impose a term of life imprisonment where there has been loss of life or injury.
Earlier this year the Government changed the law to make possession of fuel in large quantities a criminal offence.
“Since last year, however, the number of persons identified as being illegally in possession of large amounts of fuel has increased despite the criminalisation of the activity,” a statement from No6 Convent Place said.
In response to this increased crime Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, contacted Commissioner of Police, Richard Ullger and the Minister for the Environment, John Cortes and the Ministers for Justice, Samantha Sacramento and the Government will propose a very considerable increase in the penalties due for the possession of fuel canisters.
“We are changing the law to make possession of fuel canisters without consent (which we recently made a crime) punishable by prison sentences of up to life imprisonment,” Mr Picardo tweeted on Wednesday morning.
“We will not tolerate #Gibraltar being used as part of the logistics chain of the drug trade.”
The Bill is based on the premise that penalties for the offences regarding the amassing/transporting of petrol are to be substantially increased, and the offences are to be made indictable only offences.
A person who contravenes the rules, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment could be sentenced to a fine not exceeding the greater of ten times level 5 on the standard scale (which amounts to £100,000) or fifty times the value of the petrol, petroleum spirit or motor fuel by which the offence is committed or a term of imprisonment of 10 years or to both.
“The term of imprisonment is also increased to 10 years in a ‘normal’ case but where there is loss of life or serious injury the term is life imprisonment,” the Government said.
The Bill also amends section 9 of the Act so that it continues to provide penalties for breaches of the Act itself, but will no longer apply to breaches of the Rules.
The Bill then amends the Rules and ensures that the amendments are made as soon as the Act comes into force.
The Chief Minster intends to take this Bill at the next session of Parliament and is set to certify it as urgent if six weeks have not passed by the time that the Parliament can deal with the Bill.
“I have been very concerned about the increased detection of crimes involving possession of large amounts of fuel,” Mr Picardo said.
“Given the volatility of these fuels, the possession and transportation of them is restricted in order to avoid unfortunate accidents from occurring. The indiscriminate trade in these fuels and their careless transportation, is creating a reckless and massive danger to so many innocent people in our community.”
“We will not tolerate that the safety and security of our people and our streets should be put at risk. If a vehicle carrying twenty fuel canisters were to explode, the loss oflife, personal injuries and physical damage in Gibraltar would be enormous. The explosion would potentially result in devastation.”
Mr Picardo added that after working in close consultation with Commissioner Ullger, Ms Sacramento and Dr Cortes, they collectively agreed to greatly tighten the penalties.
When these new rules are in place, he said, the courts will have the power to really deter the involvement of persons in these nefarious activities that are, after all, designed to assist the drug trade.
“Strangely, since we made the practice illegal, the nimbler of instances has increased,” Mr Picardo said.
“As a result, by now providing for these huge penalty increases, I know we are going to do the right thing and provide the tools our law enforcement and our judiciary need when dealing with these offences”
“If necessary, we will act further, again.”
“Gibraltar and Gibraltarians will not want to be associated with or be anywhere near anything that supports the trade in illegal drugs, whether logistically or otherwise. It’s not who we are.”
“It’s not what Gibraltar stands for.”