Last update: 22-Dec-2013 3:04 am
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Law useless without systems—Al-Rawi
Opposition senator Faris Al-Rawi says the Anti-Gang Act is useful but the Government must ensure that the police are capable of gathering sufficient and reliable evidence. That must be done through established units, properly funded and managed through resources provided by the Government, he said in a telephone interview yesterday. He added: "The Anti-Gang Act is a tremendously useful piece of legislation which can bring much needed release from the state of criminal activity in T&T."
He said the People's National Movement (PNM) participated in the Joint Select Committee with the Government in giving birth to the legislation and had cautioned the Government that the operationalisation of the law was more important than anything else. The Opposition, he said, had continued to remind the Government "that legislation is useless without systems and that evidence lies at the heart of successful prosecution."
He said in a private motion brought by the Opposition in the House of Representatives it remonstrated against the destruction by the Government of the police and national security mechanisms which were gathering evidence in relation to criminal gang activity and "cautioned the Government that it needed to take urgent steps to provide the police with adequate resources capable of garnering reliable evidence against gangs."
He said the Opposition was unaware of any replacement for the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), which, he said, had successfully intercepted and prosecuted criminals between mid-October 2008 and May 2010. He said the work of the unit successfully led to the arrest of over 69 known gang leaders, many of whom are awaiting trial.
"We are advised, most regrettably, many of the officers who are required to give evidence in these matters were dismissed by the Government when they dismantled SAUTT," he said. He said the Ministries of the Attorney General and the National Security together received billions of dollars of funding and that the Government must account for expenditure which, he said, spoke to improvements in the criminal justice and police administration systems.
In response, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday the idea that SAUTT was the solution to the crime problem was "simply not borne out by evidence." He said the murder rate skyrocketed under the PNM and gangs were able to "mushroom and multiply" their membership despite SAUTT. "Indeed, that is how the gangs were able to grow such deep roots into these communities," he said, adding no anti-gang legislation was passed in the PNM's eight-year administration.
Many people, he said, viewed SAUTT as the problem, not the solution. "The one thing that SAUTT illegally did that we agree should be legally done is to involve members of the Defence Force in the fight against crime. “In any event, DCP Richardson was one of the senior managers of SAUTT and is now in charge of the crime-fighting operations of the TTPS," Ramlogan said.
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