One day after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard cautioned the media against “pre-trial publicity”, Ramlogan noted that the DPP has the prerogative to issue guidelines on issues of this nature. The Attorney General, who chatted with and sat next to Gaspard at yesterday’s opening of the law term at the Convocation Hall, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain, also made it clear that while he sometimes disagrees with the Office of the DPP, his working relationship with Gaspard is good.
Ramlogan said the CCTV footage, while not sufficient for criminal prosecution, may be used by the Ministry of National Security to justify detention.
“Criminal intelligence does not necessarily mean criminal evidence that is admissible in a court of law,” he said. “So, for example, if you had live CCTV footage of someone being mugged and raped, but the victim is unwilling to come forward and you know that person and that gang is a danger to society, you have the responsibility to consider the detention of that person because they pose a serious risk and threat to public order and safety. Now that will not be evidence that you can submit in a court of law because there is no victim.”
“This Government has a responsibility to ensure that the safety of all citizens is guaranteed under the Constitution,” he said. “Each person’s case will be dealt with on its own merits. If there are grounds to detain persons under emergency powers the Government shall not hesitate to do so. Of paramount importance in this country is the safety of all abiding persons.”
Of the release of videos this week by the National Security Council, Ramlogan said, “It certainly was not intended to cause any adverse pre-trial publicity.”
“Having said that, I want to make the point that we need to be practical in our approach and let the law not be grounded by the harsh reality that we face,” he said.
“On Facebook for example, you have people posting videos of people carrying out criminal actions for years now. That is live criminal behaviour. On newscasts you have citizen reports where they show live criminal action. You also have it on one particular crime watch programme. So I don’t know what is different or new now. And if there is no pending criminal matter I, quite frankly, fail to see what the concern is.”
However, Ramlogan said, the matter is for the DPP.“I will defer to the honourable DPP because he is the person who is constitutionally charged with protecting the fairness and integrity of the criminal trial for every accused in the country,” he said. “But what I do wish to say is that because of the advancement in technology and because this is nothing new the approach of burying your head in the sand is not fruitful. There needs to be some sort of revolution, some sort of thinking outside of the box, or else tail will continue to wag the dog.”
Of his working relationship with Gaspard, Ramlogan said, “the DPP is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I think the country is very lucky to have a very strong and independent DPP and someone whose integrity remains intact regardless of which government remains in power. I think that speaks well to the architecture of our Constitution and I will robustly and rigorously defend the independence of the Office of the DPP.”
He said there was sometimes a “robust tension”on topical issues which “is healthy”.
“At a personal level we both want the same thing which is an effective functioning criminal justice system. Every time I call him he responds within minutes,” Ramlogan said.
In relation to the crime problem at Nelson Street, Ramlogan said poverty is not an excuse for crime.
“Poverty is not an excuse for crime,” Ramlogan said. “And Trinidad and Tobago, while we are not perfect, we simply do not have the experience of poverty as it is in other parts of the world.”
On the issue of an appeal by Chief Justice Ivor Archie for higher judges salaries, Ramlogan said, “On a personal level I remain very sympathetic to that call. I think the call has fallen on fertile ground within the Government.”
“But that is a matter that we cannot directly negotiate with or deal with because the independent constitutional body is the Salaries Review Commission. But we will do all that we can to ensure that there is fairness in that process because we do want to ensure that we retain and attract a high quality judiciary,” he said.