If someone broke the law once and escaped, it did not mean they could do it a second time without suffering the consequences, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said yesterday.
After being released following his arrest during a protest outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) president Ancel Roget had questioned why he was detained, saying that last year he led a similar protest at the same venue and the police did not intervene.
Protesters wore masks last year and also on Wednesday.
“If you went into somebody’s house last week and you were not caught and tomorrow you go back into the person’s house and steal, the person says, ‘I am fed up of this’, and they make a report to the police and the police come and arrest you and charge you, what would you say? ‘I did the same thing last week and it was something I wasn’t charged for?’ Once something is wrong it is wrong. Once something is illegal it is illegal,” said Williams when questioned by the Express.
Meanwhile, senior counsel Dana Seetahal said yesterday the purpose of the Act under which Roget was detained on but later released was implemented for obvious reasons.
“You can’t have people going about the streets wearing masks on their faces and then they hit someone or indecently assault another person, so that is the purpose of the law,” she said.
Speaking during a brief telephone interview, Seetahal stated that during her years of experience as an attorney, several people had been charged with the offence and brought before the court.
She said under the Public Holidays and Festivals Act, people were not allowed to wear over their faces anything that would contribute to disguising themselves with the exception for events such as Carnival.
Roget, president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), was detained by Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson outside the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, as he led members of the movement in silent protest action in commemoration of the second anniversary of the limited State of Emergency.
Protesters were wearing bandana masks over the lower half of their faces and Roget was warned and later released from the Central Police Station along St Vincent Street where he was taken by Richardson.
Though she did not speak specifically of the incident, Seetahal said, “There is a very good reason for the law.”
“In the past, people would think of a mask as being a full-faced mask, but it is not necessarily so. I was not there so I do not know if they were wearing masks or anything but the purpose of the act is obvious.
“It is so that you would be able to recognise people easily so people will not escape being identified when they commit crimes in particular, otherwise it would be perfectly permissible for someone to go into a bank with a mask and then he pulls out a gun or something,” she said.