Sunday, December 17, 2017

AG: ‘One-strike’ rule coming

There was a tie in the Senate early yesterday morning, as the Government, Opposition and Independent Senators voted on a procedural motion relating to the Bail Amendment Bill.

The Government received 15 votes against the combined votes of the Opposition and Independent senators, which also amounted to 15.

Acting Senate President James Lambert was spared the task of exercising his casting vote to break the deadlock. This was facilitated by an agreement that the Senate would enter the committee stage but would defer the debate on the amendments to the Bail Bill brought by the Attorney General to next Tuesday.

The Attorney General had circulated a list of amendments based on the concerns raised by some of the Independent senators. However, the Opposition and Independent senators wanted time to consider the amendment and therefore did not want to take the bill through all its stages yesterday.

Leader of Opposition Business Camille Robinson-Regis said she did not want to debate any amendments at that hour. “We (in the People’s National Movement) did not want another Section 34,” she stated yesterday.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday explained the amendments. “Currently the law is that you have two strikes and you are out for certain offences, three strikes and you are out for other offences. We were going to repeal these with a one strike and you are out. “What we decided to do is to leave the two strikes for some offences and the three strikes for other offences, and introduce, in addition to that, a one-strike rule for other offences. So you would have a one-strike, a two-strike and a three-strike rule for different offences.

“I am going to widen the list and the list would now be applicable to all strikes—one, two and three strikes. A new master list of offences would be created and would be identified by reference to one-strike, two-strike and three-strike rules,” he said. “It is a nice harmonisation of the law,” he added.

The Attorney General, in his wind-up on the debate in the Senate at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, cited the news reports on most of the violent crimes and murders for this year, which stated that the person had pending matters or previous convictions. “Why were these persons outside?” he asked.

The Attorney General said he was confident the Government would have obtained the requisite support for the bill, but it decided it was late in the morning and therefore pushed the matter to next week.

The Attorney General said it was a story in yesterday’s Express—which reported that a 14-year-old, who was previously charged with robbery, was charged for attempted murder—which turned the debate around (in the Government’s favour). He said Independent Senator David Small drew reference to the story. He said Small was “brilliant”.

Small held up a bunch of keys from his pocket and, taking out the keys one by one, named which gates, door, burglar-proof bars each key was for. “He (Small) said ‘this is how I am forced to live’,” Ramlogan stated.

Ramlogan also cited the “riveting” contribution of temporary senator Kriyann Singh, who recounted his personal story of being held up at gunpoint with his friends while he was a student at university. Singh recalled how the bandits began to rape a girl in the group. Singh risked his life and foiled the rape. He later testified in court.

He said Independent Senators Rolph Balgobin, Victor Wheeler, Small, Vieira and Singh appeared to be in support of the bill. (The Government needs the support of at least four senators for the bill, which requires a special majority.)

The sitting was adjourned just before 5 a.m. Independent Senator Helen Drayton had to give up the debate on her private motion on campaign financing due for Tuesday, so that the Committee stage of the Bail Amendment Bill can be continued then.