Last update: 21-Dec-2013 10:02 pm
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Rowley wants tough penalties for criminals
Demanding that criminals be brought to book, a tough-talking Dr Keith Rowley says he will call on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to introduce draconian penalties for criminals who “take out” witnesses to prevent the prosecution of their cases. The Opposition Leader, speaking at a PNM meeting at Hi-Lo carpark, St Augustine, on Tuesday night said he intended to put the request to Persad-Bissessar in a meeting today which he requested to discuss the crime spike in the Duncan Street area.
Rowley said the Opposition was now in a position to influence government policy. He said he walked on Duncan Street last Saturday and the fear was such that “you could have cut it with a knife.” There was an escalation of violent crime in the area over the last few weeks, including the murder of two teenagers. Rowley said: “We empathise with the victims of east Port-of-Spain and we demand that the criminality be brought to book.
“I will ask her to see whether it is possible for us to strengthen and put serious, draconian penalties to bear upon any person who tampers with any witness. So if you commit crime A and the penalty is ten years, witness-tampering must be 15 years. “Tampering with witnesses drives a wedge at the heart of the criminal justice system. The criminals know if there is no witness and if they are afraid to talk, in whatever they do in broad daylight there is no prosecution.”
Referring to Duncan Street, he added: “People are so afraid to even talk to you because they are afraid that somebody might see them talking to you and he might kill them, having accused them of ‘ratting’ on them. We have to protect witnesses with serious responses.” Rowley said the PNM was so serious that if legislation to the end needed amending or strengthening in Parliament, once it made sense and had a chance of success, the Opposition would support it.
He said the Government’s “invasion and retreat” crime response was not curbing criminality in the area. “We cannot keep having a repeat of invasion and retreat. Every time there is a spike in murders, you invade east Port-of-Spain. You lock down the street, you lock down the block and then you gone and the criminality continues... the guns flow and then you come back for another invasion some time later on.”
Rowley said there had been a failure on the part of policing in the country and he dismissed the PM’s plan to go back to Parliament with death-penalty legislation. He said: “Before you hang anybody, you have to find out who you going to hang, who is committing the crime... if you have information which can be turned into evidence... if you can arrest and lay a charge... if you can tender evidence before the court, get a conviction and a sentence... only then does hanging come into it.
“And, of course, along the way, you have to have witnesses alive and well. How can you hang what you don’t see... who you have not arrested, charged?” he asked. He said it was against that background he had requested the meeting with Persad-Bissessar. “We are in a position to put PNM policies and demands to the Government,” he added.
However, he said, the PM said she would “talk and agree” and, therefore, he would not be making any demands on her, he would be making “requests.”
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