A “Guilty Court” should be established to hear all matters in which an accused person pleads guilty, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has recommended.
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Williams under fire for late reports
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has been criticised for being tardy in submitting critical reports to the Police Service Commission. The commission said it was so dissatisfied that this could ultimately affect Williams’ performance appraisal. Despite this, Williams will likely receive yet another extension because of the convoluted process now used to select a commissioner. Making the statement yesterday was the commission’s chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran, after he and his members met with Williams for close to an hour and a half at the commission’s office in Tunapuna. Deosaran said the meeting was an ongoing exercise in which several issues to do with the performance and management of the Police Service were raised. He said while there were conclusions the commission could arrive at, it was a matter of due process to consider what strategies Williams had put forward.
Another commission member, attorney Martin George, who first raised the issue of the reports being handed in late with members of the media, said: “One of the things I could tell you definitely that we indicated as an area of concern was the timeliness of the reports that we have requested from the commissioner. “We have spoken to him about it...We have indicated to him that not withstanding whatever difficulties or challenges he may have, he needs to improve so that there is a better flow of communication so that we could have that information to be able to do our job of assessing and reporting back to the public,” he said. “We need to do that based on hard data, information and statistical analysis.” Deosaran, who agreed, said the commission had to wait as long as several months for Williams to submit reports.
Saying the commission depended heavily on the information supplied by the office of the commissioner, Deosaran added: “We have increased the seriousness of our concern to suggest that it will implicate the appraisal that we are about to exercise. “The delays in supplying the commission with information can no longer be tolerated as it has been before,” he said. On the issue of public safety and management of the service, Deosaran said during the discussion with Williams, the issue of contracts being awarded to gang leaders was raised. The acting CoP, Deosaran said, expressed the view that this only served to increase criminality in the areas in which such contracts were awarded. “One hundred and five out of 420 murders (last year’s toll), he has narrated to us, are committed in that compact zone of the Laventille/Morvant areas, which involve Government giving contracts to these alleged gang leaders and other alleged criminals,” Deosaran said.
Another issue raised which he described as “disturbing” was the absence of police in court matters.“That disturbance is related to the fact that there are victims involved and if these cases are dismissed, to the extent that they seem to be, by the non-appearance of policemen, that is a grave injustice to the national community and to the victims,” Deosaran said. George said Williams was mandated to hand in specific reports in relation to that issue, so the commission could have an idea of the level of absenteeism of police complainants. “We need to see the figures, the percentages, the level of absenteeism of police complainants in terms of their missing court and the effects of that in terms of how many matters have been dismissed due to negligent attendance,” George explained. “We think this impacts on the faith and credibility which the public has on the entire judicial system, which is tied into the police work.”
Asked what was being done to improve the poor detection rate, Deosaran said Williams was beefing up crime scene investigation operations, making changes to the Homicide Investigation Unit and giving incentives to improve the detection of firearms. On the process of selection a permanent CoP, Deosaran said it was likely the country will have an acting commissioner for “a very long time.” He said this was so because a firm would have to be contracted yet again to screen candidates desirous of applying for the position, but that process had been delayed. “A firm has not been hired yet. There is something called Legal Notice 102 which requires the Director of Personnel Administration to advertise for a firm. “What was done is she (DPA Gloria Edwards-Joseph) has hired Nipdec. Nipdec has advertised for a firm and the firms which have applied have been found not suitable. It means now that the DPA has to invoke a further exercise in getting a suitable firm...that is where it is now at, so that the hiring of a commissioner is way down the road,” Deosaran said.