Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Anand: Bail Bill won’t affect average citizen

There is no need for the average citizen to fear the amendment to the Bail Bill because it specifically targets hardened criminals, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday.

Speaking in Parliament, at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, during his presentation on the amendment to the bill, which will see bail being denied for up to 120 days if offenders have previous convictions, Ramlogan said: 

“The average person does not have anything to worry about. They would not have been convicted of any of the crimes I am talking about. Is serious crimes, arson, burning down people’s house, I am talking about; you know, raping and kidnapping—they not in that—this targets the hardcore criminal element in our society, that is, seasoned, and has made a virtual career out of crime, robbing raping and murdering. There is a sunset clause of three years and that, too, will give some measure of comfort,” he said.

Using statistics which he said he received from the police, Ramlogan said there are not 100 murderers in this country but the same people committing crimes over and over. 

“If you have a 100 murders, that does not mean you have 100 murderers; 100 stolen vehicles does not mean there are 100 car thieves. What we are witnessing in this country is the phenomenon of the multiple career criminal, one man repeat offen-

ding, and the statistics demonstrate that.”

He said: “The current prison population is 3,435; out of that figure, 93 per cent are males, three per cent are females and the figure for repeat offenders, or a prisoner who would have had at least one prior conviction, it is over 52.3 per cent or 801 prisoners. So what it shows is there is an extremely high rate of repeat offenders.

“We would like to see that this measure becomes law so we can help the police and the prosecution. So there can be a little cooling-off period so that the communities could breathe, the police could interview the witness properly, prosecution could prepare them for the case. Leave the fella inside so he can’t go back out there the next day to eyeball the people, to intimidate the people and harass them, threaten them,” he said. 

He pointed out persons already convicted of a crime and arrested and charged again keep getting bail because the second case will take about five or seven years to start up, and while that case is pending, is out on bail committing other offences; the magistrate says it’s only one conviction and continuously grants bail.

“It is astonishing and incredible that some of those men are granted bail. The escalation (of crime) is go­ing to intensify if we do not act now. The intention of this measure is to remove the bandits, the rapists, the arsonists from the streets and put them behind bars.”

“What the statistics show is if this measure was law, persons currently who have two convictions and one similar matter pending would go from 275 to 476—an increase of 86.6 per cent. Robbery, it would move from 37 to a depressive 402,—a 986.5 per cent increase; larceny of motor vehicle would move from eight to 27— a 237 per cent increase; drug trafficking, it would move from 35 to 236—a 574 per cent increase; those are the figures provided by the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch of the Police Service, and the police are the ones who have asked us for this measure; it will be a tool, a weapon, in their fight against crime, he added.

However, Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi disagreed the average citizen had nothing to worry about.

“We as legislatures need to make law for all and we need to be very careful about what we include into the law.

“Trinidad and Tobago needs to be aware that praedial larceny is an offence, that receiving stolen goods like a tomato, a bag of cabbage, is receiving stolen goods and a case can be made out.

“The offence of occasioning actual body harm includes assault that can include you saying your hairdresser assaulted you, cut off your hair, because it is only when you are caught in the net that he bothers to look to the fine print of the law,” he added.