Police can arrest without warrant, says Seetahal

By Akile Simon

The police have a right to arrest somebody who they have reasonable cause to suspect has committed an offence.

This was the view expressed by senior counsel Dana Seetahal yesterday on police procedure involving the arrest of a suspect believed to have been involved in committing an offence.

Seetahal however steered clear of commenting on the dramatic arrest of TV6's Crime Watch host Ian Alleyne in the Express House carpark on Independence Square on Port of Spain on Thursday night, saying that it will be inappropriate for her to comment on a matter where there is the possibility of criminal charges being proffered against persons.

She however stated that under the Criminal Law Act, the police have the power — without warrant — to arrest anyone where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a person may have committed an offence.

Questioned on whether the police were justified in their actions to arrest someone for questioning in relation to an investigation, Seetahal said no.

She said, "I wouldn't say that the police have a right to arrest somebody to question them, exactly, but the police have a right to arrest somebody who they have reasonable cause to suspect has committed an offence and having done so then they ought to seek to interview that person who of course has a right to refuse to answer any question once cautioned."

On Thursday night during the scuffle when Alleyne was handcuffed, ASP Ajith Persad was heard repeating to Alleyne that he was under arrest for questioning in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Any offence which has a penalty of five or more years in prison is an arrestable offence, Seetahal said. In the matter in which Alleyne is a subject of a police investigation, which is a summary offence, carries a penalty of five years and a $25,000 fine.

"They will bring you in if they have reasonable cause to suspect based on whatever information they have, and then having brought you in, they would ask you questions and if you wish you may answer. They don't have to proceed to charge necessarily."

"So I (officers) can have reasonable cause to suspect that you (suspect) have committed an arrestable offence, let's say arson, without any input from you it might be fool-hardy to go ahead and charge you for the offence because an arrest and a charge are two different things," Seetahal said.

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