Last update: 06-Dec-2013 2:57 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Police free key suspects
After spending a little over fours days in custody, police have released 12 “major players” in gang and criminal activity in east Port-of-Spain. The men were arrested in connection with the recent upsurge in gang violence which saw six people being murdered within 24 hours last week. The release came hours after more than 400 law enforcement officers raided apartment building complexes in east Port-of-Spain on Sunday morning and arrested 90 residents. Senior police sources revealed last night, however, that the majority of those arrested during Sunday’s raids were also released yesterday, with only a handful being charged with drug possession offences and on outstanding warrants for unpaid court fines.
Some of Sunday’s detainees were also kept in custody to appear on identification parades relation to recent serious crimes, police said. The ID parades are scheduled for this morning. Of the 90 people who were originally detained, 47 were released, 26 went to court and 17 were kept in custody. Of the 26 who were charged and taken to court, 22 of them were for outstanding warrants and not for anything related to Sunday’s raids. Police said, however, that the arrested suspects from Sunday were “profiled” and “interrogated” before their eventual release. However, the dozen main detainees, who were arrested at their homes last Thursday in response to the spate of murders, were released from police custody between Sunday night and yesterday morning.
Officers of the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit interviewed the dozen and were initially considering charging them under the Anti-Gang Act of 2011. However, police sources said there was insufficient evidence to charge them at the time and they were released “pending further inquires.” Some of the detainees had been prosecuted under the legislation during the state of emergency in 2011 but were later released after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard stated that there was insufficient evidence against them. Police sources said the latest releases came after attorney Criston J Williams wrote to the police on Sunday afternoon, threatening legal action over the continued detainment of one of the men.
In the letter to police, which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, Williams stated: “I have advised my client that his continued detention in excess of 72 hours is a breach of his constitutional rights contrary to Section 4(a), 4(b) and 5 (2) (h) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the provisions of the Anti Gang legislation.” Williams refered to section 13 of the legislation, which permits police to detain a suspect under the legislation for 72 hours without charges being laid. “To date my client has not been charged and has not been informed of any steps that have been taken by the State to lawfully continue his detention,” Williams said. He also stated if his client was not released he would be pursuing a habeas corpus writ in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday. If pursued, the writ would have forced the police to attend court to justify his client’s continued detainment to a High Court Judge. He was eventually released around 6.30 am yesterday and the lawsuit was withdrawn.
Meanwhile, two women and a man arrested during Sunday’s police exercise appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court yesterday charged with marijuana possession. Merlin Roberts, of Nelson Street, was put on a two-year bond to keep the peace after he pleaded guilty to being in possession of 5.8 grammes of marijuana. Ria Durity, of Belleview, Long Circular, St James, was ordered to pay a $500 fine or serve 30 days’ in prison. Durity’s sentence would be suspended on the completion of 80 hours of community service. Durity was arrested while driving through Laventille on Sunday morning. She was found in possession of one gramme of marijuana. Beetham Gardens resident, Alana Villafana, 31, was also given a suspended sentence on the completion of 100 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty to possession of 17 grammes of marijuana. In default, Villafana will pay a $700 fine or serve six months in prison. The trio appeared before Magistrate Debbie-Ann Bassaw in the Tenth Court.
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