22,000 drug, gun cases pending

In written answers to oral questions filed by Senate Opposition Chief Whip Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, Ramlogan however also disclosed that the total number of cases could not yet be ascertained, due to an archaic records system as well as “tardiness” on the part of the Police Service.

Ramlogan noted that for the period January, 2005 to December 2010, current available records indicate that there were 31,773 cases, 21,902 of which were still pending as at December, 2010.

Of the total cases for that period, 27,656 were drug-related: involving the possession, trafficking, cultivating, importing and exporting of a dangerous drug. Of these, 9,570 (or only 35 percent) were completed by December 2010, leaving 18,086 pending.

The other cases – involving strict firearms charges for the possession of firearms and ammunition – totalled at least 4,117. A total of 3,816 of these were still pending as at December, 2010, according to records.

However, actual figures are likely to be higher due to problems in accessing current records, according to the written note circulated to Senators yesterday at Ramlogan’s request.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has advised of a number of challenges that make the provision of the data required ‘difficult’ for a comprehensive response to this Parliamentary question,” the note read. “Key among these is the fact that the information storage system within the Judiciary is not fully computerised. As a result, the Police Service must source the information manually in order to keep the police records updated. Officers are therefore required to extract the necessary data and supply it for input.”

“Due to the tardiness of the officers, however, there are usually delays in inputting the information, and therefore difficulty in maintaining current records,” the note read.

The circulation of the note yesterday was the culmination of heated verbal sparring in the Chamber yesterday between the Government and Opposition benches over the timing of the answering of the question.

The Parliament question had been asked of the Minister of Justice, Herbert Volney, a member of the House of Representatives. Ramlogan was due to appear in the Senate at the beginning of question time to answer on Volney’s behalf, but was reportedly detained by a function at his offices on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.

At the start of question time, Senate Leader of Government Business, Subhas Panday, proposed to Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith that the answer be taken later in the sitting at any time before 2.15 pm (the time beyond which questions cannot be asked according to the Standing Orders). The Senate President put the matter to the house and Government Senators voted for the deferral.

While Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis was contributing to debate on a data protection bill that was pending before the house, the Attorney General arrived in the Chamber but then left two minutes later.

When Ramlogan returned to the Chamber, only two minutes for question time remained and George – acting for Leader of Government Business in the Senate Subhas Panday who left the Chamber briefly – asked for a deferral to the next sitting. This provoked outrage from PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds who argued that it was tantamount to a deception since the Government had indicated that the answer to the question was ready earlier.

Ramlogan then explained that there was not enough time to read out the answer to the question. He then promised to circulate the written text of the answer to Senators before 3 pm.

The answers were circulated at 2.58 pm. No senator proposed a suspension of the Standing Orders to allow the question to be answered beyond the 2.15 pm limit.


"22,000 drug, gun cases pending"

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