Saturday, January 20, 2018

Prakash urges trial run with swift justice

No-bail proposal by PM

GOVERNMENT'S proposal to deny bail for possession of narcotics and guns should have a trial run before being made law and the offences should include money laundering, Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar said yesterday.

Ramadhar told the Express the proposal made last week by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will deny the right to freedom of individuals charged and should therefore be accompanied by a means to swift justice, such as a drug and gun night court.

Persad-Bissessar said last week that Government's concern about Trinidad and Tobago's high murder rate had led to a proposal to quickly bring to Parliament legislation that would make the possession of drugs and guns a non-bailable offence.

The legislation would also change the sentencing for such offences from discretionary to mandatory, she said, stating at the time, "Such legislation should be relatively simple."

The proposal came out of an emergency meeting between the Prime Minister and heads of the protective services.

Persad-Bissessar said the Government was moving towards the precepting of soldiers and there was a reluctance on the part of former police commissioner Dwayne Gibbs to implement such an initiative.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan later told the Express he would be taking the note to Cabinet this week for the no-bail provision and for the precepting of soldiers "with police training".

Ramadhar said yesterday he intends to suggest a rounded approach to the proposal to his Cabinet colleagues.

"The proposal to deny bail to those who are found in possession of drugs and guns requires careful consideration," he said in a statement to the Express.

"As we consider this measure, it is imperative that we also deal with issues surrounding the administration of justice so as to ensure that if we deny people's right to freedom, that they are assured of swift adjudication of their matters.

"In that regard, we may need to look at the simultaneous implementation of drug and gun court, and night court, to look at these matters to ensure that people who are accused are not held for unreasonable, lengthy periods of time without trial.

"In an attempt to ensure that the desired outcome is met, I would suggest to my colleagues that if we considered this proposal, we consider it with a sunset clause, which will make it law for a defined period of time, such as one year, so that it does not become permanent."

Ramadhar said the State must also deal with gang leaders and not just the "soldiers", if it is to achieve a sustainable reduction in crime.

"Therefore, it is my view that we should consider adding money laundering to the list of non-bailable offences and intensify our efforts to go after those who run the criminal activity in our society," he said.

"I will continue to advocate for the strengthening of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Board of Inland Revenue to ensure that we have the necessary skills and resources to aggressively go after those who are the real perpetrators of mayhem in our society."