ONLY a “blind” Police Service would arrest a man for the same crime twice in two years and still not have any evidence to ensure proper charges can be laid.
So said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday, in response to the fact that 59 out of 101 people arrested in East Port of Spain from last Thursday to Sunday have been freed without being charged.
Among the high-profile arrests last Thursday were suspected gang members 38-year-old Cedric “Burkey” Burke and Anthon Boney.
Burke was released on Sunday.
In August 2011, Burke was arrested at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain and charged under the Anti-Gang Act during the state of emergency (SOE).
He was eventually released due to lack of evidence.
Attorney Criston Williams on Monday filed a writ of habeas corpus to have his client Boney who was arrested and held at the Belmont Police Station with the lot brought to court for the State to show why he had been detained.
Williams was successful in forcing the police to release his client after he wrote to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, informing them they must come to court on Monday (August 19) to state why his client was being held. Boney was then freed.
“What this Government stands guilty of is dismantling the information-gathering system and the Police Service is virtually blind,” Rowley said.
“It is only a blind Police Service would go and pick up the same man you picked up the last time (during the 2011 state of emergency). You have no additional or new evidence, you pick him up again and some unknown lawyer within five minutes threatens you with a writ of habeas corpus and you have to release all you picked up,” he said.
Rowley was speaking as the People’s National Movement (PNM) embarked on a walkabout in the St Joseph area.
He said the fact that people would be arrested and released because of lack of evidence twice in two years was “worrying” and “surprising”. “What you saw in east Port of Spain this week is the same thing, but on a grander stage than occurred during the state of emergency, where you invade and retreat,” Rowley said.
“Interestingly enough, some of the same people that were picked up in the state of emergency were picked up again in a similar manner and released without charge, and that worries me because it tells me that we made no progress with respect to crime detection or gathering information to be used as evidence,” he said.
“I was quite surprised you could know who to pick up a year after you pick them up without evidence, you picked them up again and get an identical situation. That means we made no progress with information gathering, with evidence being collected to get a charge, far less a conviction, and what this should tell us is that the Government must admit that the systems have been failing and therefore we do not have the option to conclude that we cannot solve the problems in front of us,” Rowley said.
Rowley said he expects his meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar tomorrow to be “useful”.
He, however, described the call for the return of the death penalty as “political gimmickry”.
“The death penalty comes at the end of the process. There is nothing now preventing the Government from proceeding to carry out the death penalty within the context of the laws that we have and the dictates laid down by our final court of appeal,” Rowley said.
“What is absent is not the death penalty, what is absent is crime detection because if you don’t detect who is doing the crime, you wouldn’t be able to charge anybody. If you don’t charge anybody, then you cannot get a conviction against anybody. If you don’t get a conviction, then you can’t get a sentence against anybody; and until you get a sentence, there is no issue of the death penalty,” he said.