One year after a state of emergency was declared in this country, a call is being made to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and director of the Police Complaints Authority Gillian Lucky to launch a “thorough investigation” into 449 arrests made under the Anti-Gang Act.
Local pressure group Fixin’ T&T yesterday wrote to both office holders, saying new information that has come to hand raises questions about the perversion of justice.
Along with their letter, they also attached several documents, one of which is purported to have come from a Senior Counsel written to then Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, indicating a lack of evidentiary information in the arrest of a number of people who were alleged to be involved in gang activities.
The advice given to Gibbs in the latter, dated October 14, 2011, indicated the charges against the defendants could not be supported by the available evidence.
In their letter to Williams and Lucky, Fixin’ T&T stated that according to their information, “during the state of emergency, 448 persons were arrested under the Anti-Gang Act; approximately 213 were released without being charged; approximately 236 were charged and approximately 236 were released due to insufficient and, in many cases, not a shred of evidence”.
The group said the new information “causes us grave concern and raises questions about actions during the state of emergency that may have constituted due process and human rights violations as well as the perversion of justice”.
The acting Commissioner and the PCA director were also forwarded copies of statements from a number of police officers who indicated that in the face of no evidence to support the charges they laid against “gang leaders”, they were in fact instructed to do so and complied.
The statements, which were also given to the Express, included documents filed in the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court on August 19, 2011, listing charges against the alleged gang members.
According to submissions by Constable Noble Smith, of the Port of Spain Criminal Investigation Department (CID), “I was instructed to arrest and charge Cedric Burke and Keon Bayne, both of Sea Lots, who were at the time guests at the Hyatt Hotel in Wrightson Road.
They were charged for the offence under the new Anti-Gang legislation.”
He added, “I was also informed at the time that there was evidence to substantiate the charge. However I do not have any evidence, or any forthcoming evidence to substantiate the charge.”
Copies of a statement by PC Balliram versus Afiel Gillead, Emmanuel Bowen, Akeem Parkinson and Kzyz James, who were all alleged to be gang members, also indicated that although the arrested people denied any involvement in any gang dealings, he was instructed to charge them.
“At station I was given verbal instructions from the seniors within the Western Division to charge the four defendants. I formally charged the defendants for the offence, further cautioned and informed them of their legal rights, to which they made no request,” PC Balliram stated.
Fixin’ T&T stated that many of those charged spent up to six weeks in jail.
“In light of this documentation that has come to hand, we are requesting than an efficient, transparent and thorough investigation be launched into all of the 449 arrests made,” the group told both Williams and Lucky.
Fixin’ T&T has also informed Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the media about the latest developments.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar instituted a state of emergency in several hotspots in Trinidad in August 2011 and extended it to December 2011 because of the escalating crime figures in the country.