Wallace wants tougher punishments for health law breaches

Lennox Wallace, chief public health inspector for St James, says stricter punishments are needed for persons who breach the parish's health laws, including illegal waste disposal and unsafe food handling.

Wallace said that while the St James Health Department is proactive in pursuing convictions for violations of the public-health laws, the current penalties, which include fines as low as $2,000 for littering, under the National Solid Waste Management Act, are not an adequate deterrent.

"We continue to prosecute persons if they violate our public health laws. I agree that some of the fines are minuscule and do not serve as a deterrent, but we have to work with what we have at this time until the Cabinet has a look at the laws, and I am confident that will be done in short order," Wallace told The Gleaner yesterday.

"We have written to our own head office re looking at some of the fines because we know that the fines are not satisfactory. But we have some other fines, to include payment of

$1 million or one year's imprisonment [for illegal waste disposal], that we encourage our officers to use where it applies. And we ensure that we use the necessary laws to prosecute persons."

DUMPING GARBAGE IN GULLY

The health inspector's comments follow a recent clean-up exercise undertaken by the St James Municipal Corporation in Montego Bay's North Gully, which is constantly littered with piles of garbage.

In August, local government minister Desmond McKenzie announced that the new Anti-Litter Act will be tabled in Parliament by year end and will include stronger penalties, such as higher fines for illegal waste disposal.

Regarding food establishments that put contaminated food on the market, Wallace said that the health department monitors those operators very strictly.

"We have a 'black book' for those establishments so that we know the risk they pose to the general public, and we monitor them every week, compared to other facilities that we monitor every month, to ensure compliance," said Wallace.


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