“[…] We should seek to establish an advisory committee comprising of eminent jurists and law enforcement officials from some [foreign] jurisdictions (possibly a five-member panel) to undertake a comprehensive review of our existing laws and other measures/practices in our criminal justice system.
“[…] Accordingly, all crimes related to the illegal importation and possession of guns and/or ammunition should carry a mandatory death sentence. Customs and law enforcement officials who are complicit in such crimes, including tipping-off of perpetrators, should also receive the death penalty…”
The following Letter to Editor with proposals to address Trinidad and Tobago’s current violent crime spree was submitted to Wired868 by Louis Williams of St Augustine:
This letter deals almost exclusively with the punitive measures required to address our very unsatisfactory crime situation.
Given the limitations of space, I propose, in subsequent submissions, to address the softer issues that, to some extent, have a positive impact on crime—including poverty alleviation measures such as parental support, and the reform of the educational system.
What I am hearing from all the relevant authorities and most other commentators is more of the same, with the expectation to get different results.
Yes, there needs to be a more efficient application of the systems currently in place, and that will bring some relief at the margin. However, as an analogy, we will still be trying to clean the Brian Lara Promenade with a scrubbing brush when what is required is a power and/or pressure washer.
I am of the view that we need assistance from outside our jurisdiction to effectively combat our crime problem. There are countries, such as Singapore, in the Commonwealth of Nations with a similar Westminster system of government that have dealt effectively with their crime situation.
In this regard, we should seek to establish an advisory committee comprising of eminent jurists and law enforcement officials from some of those jurisdictions (possibly a five-member panel) to undertake a comprehensive review of our existing laws and other measures/practices in our criminal justice system.
That advisory committee should then make recommendations to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) on the requirements for a much more effective system.
Such a review must examine, in detail, the operations of the TTPS, the Office of the DPP, and the Judiciary. Our legislative/administrative infrastructure would also have to be scrutinised.
Such an exercise, although necessary, will require approximately six months or possibly a year to be completed. However, we would have a blueprint for moving forward.
In the interim and without prejudice to what this high-powered committee might recommend, we can, among other things, adopt some important measures on our own.
Accordingly, all crimes related to the illegal importation and possession of guns and/or ammunition should carry a mandatory death sentence. Customs and law enforcement officials who are complicit in such crimes, including tipping-off of perpetrators, should also receive the death penalty.
Similarly, the death penalty should also be mandatory for the importation, and/or sale of illegal drugs such as cocaine. Kidnapping should be a death penalty offence.
The laws should be amended to allow for the automatic tracking by way of electronic monitoring of persons accused of death penalty offences who are granted bail. Such monitoring should include any electronic devices to which they have access. CCTV and other electronic devices should be installed at their homes/business places.
The relevant laws should be amended to ensure that all crimes that attract the death penalty are judicially determined within three years and, therefore, fall well within the five-year timeframe required by Pratt and Morgan. The administrative and other legal infrastructure should support the completion of such matters within three years.
The CCTV initiative of the Government is admirable. However, some of these devices should be focused in even more abundance in hotspot locations in the country—including in neighborhoods where suspected gang leaders/gang members reside and/or conduct their nefarious business, or frequent.
A similar approach should be implemented with respect to suspected “drug blocks”.
The TTPS should have effective daily patrols/surveillance throughout the day and night in every district, including random stop and search measures—especially in hotspots, suspected “drug blocks”, and where suspected gang leaders/gang members reside and/or conduct their business, or frequent.
The declaration of a state of emergency should not be ruled out as an appropriate measure depending on the circumstances. We are, effectively, in a state of war as far as serious crimes are concerned.
As an interim measure, as far as white-collar crimes are concerned, the Government should provide the necessary funds for the TTPS and the Office of the DPP to each secure the services of at least one eminent foreign expert on such matters to assist in their day-to-day operations.
The TTPS and the Office of the DPP should be required, by law, to periodically publish statistical data on the progress of such matters—in a manner that does not compromise the prosecution of alleged offenders—and give an indication of what may be hindering their timely completion, where there are significant delays.