The cries of pregnant cancer patient Melissa Evans echoed throughout the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday after she was told she had to spend a night in prison after being denied bail in
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DNA test on return home
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan wants anyone deported back home to be subjected to DNA fingerprinting. Employers who dismiss employees or otherwise prevent them from doing jury duty risk a $50,000 fine and one year in jail under proposed changes to that law which will also allow seniors up to age 70 to serve on juries. Ramlogan outlined the proposals at yesterday’s Parliament sitting while piloting a package of legislation to aid the criminal justice system.
The package includes proposed legislation on DNA usage which calls for deportees to give a DNA sample on arriving in T&T. That legislation requires a special three-fifth majority vote for passage, involving 25 votes in the Lower House and 19 in the Upper, Ramlogan said. On the proposed DNA legislation, Ramlogan said DNA “fingerprinting” of deportees was necessary, since their documents often didn’t give the full picture of their situation and Immigration officers were not equipped to deal with the matter.
Proposals include retaining DNA samples for 20 years, as these have been criticial in solving “cold” cases later on, he said. The AG said retention would profit T&T’s chances at fighting crime. He said the law was necessary, since there was a high recidivism rate and many got off on technicalities or because they had better attorneys than the state. Ramlogan said a small group of criminal elements was holding T&T to ransom on the crime issue. “So keep their samples and retain their profile,” he said.
“Our criminals are enterprising and ingenuous, it’s a chess game between the state and bandits and now they seem to be outmanoeuvring us,” he added, noting samples would only be destroyed if the DPP and Police Commissioner approved this.
Bigger fines for Jury Act
On the Jury Act, Ramlogan said employers who tried to dismiss or otherwise prevent employees from fulfilling jury duty had no business to intimidate them and prevent them from doing their duty under the law. He said the current fine of $1,000 and a six-month jail term will be increased.
The age limit for jurors will also increase from 65 to 70. Ramlogan said senior citizens’ life experience was invaluable and they also have free time. He said life expectance was now also 70 and upwards. He said Central Statistical Office’s 2011 figure showed T&T had 119,029 people over age 65.
Proposals will also allow specialist jurors with expertise in banking economics, finance, accounts, forensic accounting, management, securities and investment. He said, for example, this will aid empanelling of a jury that may deal with cases such as the FCB-IPO issue. He said the amended Securities law (2012) will also facilitate handling of the Securities and Exchange Commission on matters like the IPO issue.
“Elitist” qualifications which jurors were expected to have - including owning a house and land and certain income - will also be removed. The proposals also remove current stipulations for juries to comprise of only men in some cases and to include women only for some issues. Ramlogan said this was sexist and discriminatory, since tests showed women handle stress better than men. “Perhaps that’s why they’re the ones having babies,” he quipped.
The pool of jurors will also be expanded to include the spouses of judges, MPs, mayors and deputy mayors, magistrates, justices of the peace, attorneys, court officers and police.