Fines, penalties under the Public Health Act need to be updated
With the exception of perhaps the City of Georgetown the Environmental Health Officer faces a dilemma when carrying out the provisions of the Public Health Act Chapter 145 owing to the following:
Nuisance – If a person is taken to the magistrate’s court for causing a nuisance and found guilty, the magistrate cannot order the defendant to execute the work to abate the nuisance if the cost exceeds $240.00. The fine is $24.00 and if the defendant fails to abate the nuisance the penalty is $3.00 per day if the nuisance exists or continues to exist. Therefore if the defendant decides not to abate the nuisance and pay the $3.00 per day, the complainant would continue to suffer. This happened at Fyrish Village, Corentyne involving a rice factory some years ago. The NDC can take the nuisance matter to the high court and have the matter solved regardless of the cost. However no NDC has ever done that, although some were so advised. Also any person who is affected by a nuisance can take private legal action against the guilty party.
Building – For building without permission, the fine is $50.00. The magistrate may make an order to demolish a building or the offending portion of one, however no demolition order has ever been granted, except for about 20 years ago because the person constructed the building within the burial ground. In the case of issues such as drainage, sanitary facilities and environmental health problems the fine is $50.00. I was advised that the fines were multiplied by 65 times, but that is still totally inadequate. As an example, $3.00 per day fine for a nuisance is just $195.
The Public Health Act Chapter 145 is an apt piece of legislation; however, unless the fine and penalties are substantially updated the Environmental Health Officer would continue to be ridiculed, accused of not carrying out his/her duties or of engaging in bribery and corruption.
As the fines and penalties currently exist, my stand is to encourage people to carry out the work rather than institute court proceedings, which may be more detrimental to the health and well-being of the persons who are affected, especially in cases of nuisance.