Last update: 11-Dec-2013 10:53 pm
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Seetahal: Govt should look at anti-gang laws in other nations
Former Independent senator Dana Seetahal, SC, has suggested that the Government should look at how anti-gang laws are enforced elsewhere in the world. Seetahal said the country may have to look at its evidentiary law rather than the Anti-Gang Act itself. Her comment came in the wake of an announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday, that the Government intended to review the act.
Last week, almost 100 people from east Port-of-Spain were detained for suspected gang-related activity but were later released owing to lack of evidence. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan subsequently said in an interview with the T&T Guardian that there was nothing wrong with the act and it was a matter of enforcement by the police. Former national security minister Subhas Panday, at a press conference earlier this week, also asked: “Why is it we cannot use the intercept legislation?
“The anti-gang legislation cannot stand by itself, you must have the intercept legislation working with it, and it seems to me they cannot develop the ability to use the intercept legislation and that is why they can't charge anybody,” he said. But in a telephone interview yesterday, Seetahal said the law is a new one which has not been tested by the Court of Appeal. She said the act is much wider in many ways, such as the definition of what is a gang.
The act, she said, needs more exposure and the Government must look to other countries and how their legislation is enforced and successful prosecutions are carried out abroad. She said the issue is still a relatively new one and the country’s criminal intelligence is also still relatively new—approximately 15 years—in comparison to the United States, which would have had decades of experience addressing the matter.
The issue, she said, would also require documentation and being able to put the material in evidential form. It would also require police to have knowledge of the gangs. Asked about training, Seetahal said she was unable to say if the police training had been completed. In 2011, police were unable to press charges against those detained under the act during the state of emergency.
The AG said in November of that year that four legal teams had been created to examine arrests under the state of emergency to help train police in implementing the Anti-Gang Act. Those teams were reportedly led by four Senior Counsel: Seetahal, Pamela Elder, Israel Khan and the late Theodore Guerra.
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