Stop mad rush to arrest gangsters

Gaspard was speaking at a seminar hosted by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago at the Hugh Wooding Law School in St Augustine.

It was noted that since the implementation of the state of emergency there had been 449 persons arrested under the act. However, since then the State was forced to release 236 persons from custody due to a lack of evidence brought against these accused persons.

In his address, Gaspard noted that the legislation was not needed, as the law was already furnished with the relevant tools to combat the criminal elements in this country. He said the only new item that the legislation brought was the offence of being in a gang, and even that — according to certain definitions — could possibly be covered by the laws regarding joint enterprise.

“There is a certain attitude that this law is a big deal, like it’s the best thing since sliced bread ... and that perception is only gaining currency in certain quarters,” Gaspard said.

The DPP also lambasted the police authorities for rushing to use the Anti-Gang Act without proper legal education on how the law was to operate.

“I regret to say that the law enforcement authorities may not have been careful enough in their use of the law. Perhaps this occurred in their haste to clamp down on the criminal menace in our society,” he told the gathering. “(Whatever the reason) these law enforcement agencies obviously need to be more circumspect and patient to properly build cases with strong evidentiary platforms from which they could launch their welcomed attacks against criminal gangs.”

The DPP noted that if this was not done it will be the country which will suffer, as citizens will be the ones being targeted and in turn public faith in the police could also be diminished, as people could begin to see the police and their use of this law as being illegitimate.

“Any approach used with the scent of unfairness has the unwanted risk of having police trust being undermined. This in turn has the potential to further (bolster) the criminal subculture in this country, which (acts as) the umbilical cord of criminal gang activities,” Gaspard said.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj QC also expressed similar views in his presentation. He warned that there was dire need for a review of the act, adding if this is not done “crime was only going to get worse”.

“I think this Act is (very) flawed and there needs to be immediate steps taken to have proper studies done to see if this Act needs major amendments, major overhauling or simply just a new Act altogether,” Maharaj said.

He said that the definitions as laid out by the Anti-Gang Act were not clear, and that this was very dangerous, as in the legal profession there must always be a sense of certainty.


"Stop mad rush to arrest gangsters"

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