Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday cautioned acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams against making “sweeping statements” that would would lead to more problems for the State.
He said these statements could bring an “avalanche” of lawsuits against the Government by persons branded as gang members and gang leaders on the basis of “unproven suspicion”.
Ramlogan also warned Williams about passing the buck for fighting crime to the Government, adding that the Government would not sway from observing the rule of law because the Police Service cannot get it right.
Ramlogan was speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.
Williams has taken issue with the allocation of Government contracts to alleged gang members. “I have taken a clear position (that) not a single gang leader would receive a contract from the Police Service. I have control over that. The question you need to pose is who has control of Government contracts,” Williams stated.
Challenging this statement, Ramlogan said: “If the Police Service, as the chairman of Udecott has indicated, provides a list of names of persons they consider to be gang members and leaders, the obvious question has to be this: If the police know who the gang members and the gang leaders are, why is it they are not behind bars and they are not being charged with credible evidence so that they can be prosecuted and put behind bars.
“If the Police Service provides the names and pictures of those who they deem to be gang members and say that they must not get any work from the State, there are two consequences. Firstly, if these people cannot get work, what would they do and how would they live? Will this result in a further spike in crime? Secondly, if you circulate such a list without having the evidence to charge them and prosecute them, then I as Attorney General have a very grave concern with I must frankly share with the Commissioner of Police.
“ If you brand these individuals by publishing their names and pictures in the absence of cogent, clear and compelling evidence, that is admissible..in a court of law, then all of these persons would come to sue the Attorney General and the State for two causes of action- (1) defamation of character and (2) for discrimination and breach of their constitutional right to equality of treatment and equality of protection under the law,” Ramlogan said.
He said thirdly, these persons would be able go to the Equal Opportunities Commission to file a complaint about the inequality of treatment by a high state functionary, namely the Commissioner of Police.
Ramlogan said therefore that until such time as the Police had justiciable evidence, he would urge caution before Williams makes such sweeping statements, “in the framework, context and manner that he has because it would lead to more problems for the State and lead to an avalanche of litigation against the State”.
On National Security Minister Gary Griffith’s uncompromising stance that persons known to be affiliated with gangs should not benefit from any state contracts, Ramlogan said, “That is an idea that the Minister of National Security has advanced. That has not been a policy of the Government that has come before the Cabinet. And we are all entitled to have new ideas and think outside of the box. I compliment my colleague...for the effervescence and the ideas that he has come up with. When and if it comes to Cabinet, we will give it due consideration... within the context of the Constitution and the requirements of due process by the laws of the land.”
Ramlogan said the police could not ask Government to do business on the basis of “unproven suspicions”. “The Police Service has got to do better than that. Nowhere in the world do you have that situation. He recalled that during the state of emergency, the police charged many persons and the DPP went to court and discontinued all the prosecutions because there was no cogent and compelling evidence.
Ramlogan said he was a chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) for the anti-gang legislation and the police made a presentation to the committee, which “left us in doubt and with the inescapable, irresistible impression and conclusion that they knew who the gang members were and that if we (the Parliament) gave them the legislative tools they (the police) would have them (the gang members) behind bars and prosecuted.”
Ramlogan said this was why the Anti-Gang Act was passed unanimously in both houses of Parliament. He added that the police should do introspective analysis and lay blame and see what is going wrong. Saying that the spotlight should be on the Police Service, (not the Government), Ramlogan said: “We have every confidence in the Acting Commissioner of Police to get it right.”