What is especially disturbing is that not only is a court along with its precincts a place which has been traditionally regarded as sacrosanct, but Garcia was being accompanied by a police officer and there would have been other police officers relatively near to the area along which Garcia was being directed.
Additionally, the Rio Claro Police Station is a short distance away from the Magistrates’ Court. This meant that Peter Garcia’s execution represented a brutal contempt at authority and signalled that criminals appear to be coming daily more dismissive of the men and women who are there to protect and serve.
Was the murder accused, killed as an act of revenge or was his killing ordered and carried out because of fear that he may have implicated others in the murder of chutney promoter, Simboonath Kumar, and additional killings and/or other serious crimes? Had murder victim Garcia been a State witness to serious criminal acts he may have allowed himself to have been “persuaded” not to testify. In this specific case, however, had he not testified and fully any chance of being found not guilty by a jury would have been cancelled out.
Whatever the reasons held by the criminals against his offering a defence in court what stands out, nonetheless, is that Garcia was not provided with the security he clearly should have had. As the murder victim’s father, Harvey Huggins, pointed out there was a lapse in security. Although court rules required that the policeman accompanying Garcia to court should be unarmed, whether in the precincts of the court or inside of the court when it is in session, nevertheless, given the nature of the charge against Garcia, armed policemen should have been deployed in the area.
Under Trinidad and Tobago law, inherited from British law, an accused person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court. Garcia was not provided with the needed opportunity to present his case fully in court as two criminals, mingling with others persons, apparently innocently, yet with the intent to murder, had already sentenced him to die. But because he was in the care of the State, the relevant authorities should have ensured his safety. Monday’s incident demonstrated that the authorities whose responsibility it was to have measures fully in place to reasonably guarantee Garcia’s safety had fallen short.
It is not enough for acting Commissioner of Police, James Philbert, to, figuratively, wring his hands and declare Monday’s execution to be “callous and boldface” he should have had steps in place which would have dissuaded the criminals.
It was somewhat odd that the acting Police Commissioner should have thought it necessary to voice the concern that the incident clearly showed that criminals had lost all respect for authority and persons in authority. That should have been left for disinterested persons to say. Indeed, the signal sent by Mr Philbert’s statement that criminals “have no concern for law and order and no measure of respect for the police” is a troubling one. “This is the kind of thing you would see in a mobster movie,” Philbert stated. He has given the welcome assurance, however, that the police were “going to do everything possible to reverse the situation” and urged police officers to show the criminals that the police were the ones in charge and not the criminals. The earlier the police are able to achieve this the better.