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Prison conditions creating monsters

Judge tells of Remand Yard 'hell-hole':

By Nikita Braxton-Benjamin nikita.braxton@trinidadexpress.com

THE CONDITIONS prisoners endure while they await trial could be leading to the release of monsters back into society.

This was the comment made yesterday by Justice Anthony Carmona as he spoke of the circumstances men face at Remand Yard.

"The authorities must be reminded that if you treat a man like an animal when he is in Remand Yard, when he comes out, you will have a monster on your hands. Crime has multiplied a thousand fold within the last 15 years," he said.

Carmona said that in the past, the Commissioner of Police made statements about the conditions at the prison, but this fell on deaf ears.

Carmona was speaking during the sentencing of Andrew Floyd, 45, who pleaded guilty to the possession of two firearms and 24 rounds of ammunition.

The court heard that at around 10.50 p.m. on July 15, 2005, that constable Joseph Sutherland, Sgt Williams and other officers received information and went to the intersection of Rushworth Street and San Fernando By-Pass Road.

Ten minutes later, a silver Nissan Almera stopped at the traffic light along the north-bound lane of the road.

The officers blocked the roadway and the driver, in trying to reverse the car, struck the vehicle behind. The men were ordered out the car in which police found a loaded gun under the driver's seat and another between the passenger and driver's seat.

A bag with 18 rounds of ammunition was also found.

Defence attorney Richard Valere said his client had been in custody for the past eight years awaiting trial. Justice Carmona said while this was regrettable and a matter of this nature should be have been over quickly, judges also have to engage in more serious offences, including murder cases.

The judge said that Remand Yard was worse that other prisons and had been described by another judge as a hell-hole.

"The court recalls that the present Commissioner of Police was so bold to say the conditions are horrible. Such a public statement is unprecedented, meant to wake up the sleeping dead in terms of triggering a social response by NGOs, the Criminal Law Association... Regrettably, his was a cry in the wilderness for help. There was little or no response," Carmona said.

But he said that for Floyd, being in prison for the last eight years, may have saved his life.

Floyd's co-accused who had pleaded guilty to this offence and were fined before the magistrates court, had since been shot dead in separate incidents.

In recalling the details of the matter before him, Carmona said Floyd had tried to evade the police back on July 15 2005, damaged a car and had guns in the vehicle.

He said had the case gone to trial, Floyd would have been found guilty and sentenced to the maximum 10 year prison term.

Carmona said that if he had applied the one-third discount to Floyd for his guilty plea, the father of two would have been going home yesterday.

But with seven previous convictions for robbery with violence, robbery with aggravation and possession of gun and ammunition, he could not be afforded the discount.

Carmona ordered that Floyd serve one year in prison with hard labour.

He also ordered that the guns be destroyed and a written response be obtained from the Commissioner saying that this was done.

The officers involved in the case are to be rewarded with $500.

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