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No justice in police slayings; ex-magistrate says close legal loopholes instead

Local businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson are accused of various fraud charges arising out of the construction of the Piarco Airport Development Project in 2002. For over ten years the case still remains in an inquiry state, while both men have been resisting extradition to the United States to face charges related to the Piarco project.

This is just one example of individuals exploiting the local justice system that was pointed out by retired senior magistrate George Hislop.

Hislop is calling for focus to be placed on ensuring justice rather than law enforcement to deal with the country’s escalating crime situation.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move. (Courtesy Heritage Radio)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move.
(Courtesy Heritage Radio)

Hislop is a past member of the Crime and Justice Commission and is still a practising attorney. He believes the only way a civilized society can deal with crime is in a civilized manner and this is why the current “wild west” approach to crime is proving to be so ineffective.

“Giving police more guns is not the solution,” Hislop told Wired868.

He explained that too much focus is placed on the police and army when it comes to combating crime. Instead, the aim should be towards improving the way in which the judicial system deals with criminals after they are arrested and brought before the courts.

He pointed out several steps that could be taken, specifically within the Magistrates’ Court, which could put the court to better use.

Hislop cited unnecessary activities such as the daily calling of hundreds of cases in each courtroom for adjournment as well as the abolishment of preliminary inquiries. More than half a magistrate’s day, he lamented, was spent simply adjourning cases; a practice he saw as a waste of the court’s time.

He described this process as an “administrative function” that could be handled by someone other than the magistrate. The delegation of such duties and distractions, he noted, could free the magistrate to focus on the cases that could go to trial and thereby better serve the country.

Hislop explained that an improved legal system would ensure court cases are more speedily processed rather than tied up indefinitely. He noted that criminals already knew how to use legal loopholes to drag out their cases and pointed to Galbaransingh and Ferguson’s ongoing case as one such example.

Photo: Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.
Photo: Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.

The most frequently exploited loophole occurs during preliminary inquiries when all evidence relating to a case is presented orally in court, before the magistrate, in order to determine if there is sufficient cause to go to trial. This evidence is subject to cross-examination and accused persons seize on this to cause obscene delays.

“Attorneys can tie up a case in the preliminary inquiry stage indefinitely by endlessly cross-examining the evidence,” said Hislop.

In other countries, magistrates have the power to say, “I have heard enough” and end the inquiry and order the matter to go to trial. However, local magistrates do not have that authority and, as a result, the Galbaransingh/Ferguson case remains in the preliminary inquiry stage after more than ten years.

Once an accused person has the financial means, he can use this legal loophole to delay and frustrate the justice system. And, despite discussion for years about abolishing preliminary inquiries, nothing has been done.

In the end, Hislop believes improving the way justice is administered would not only reduce crime but public confidence in the legal system; and the confidence of police officers who will know their efforts in apprehending criminals will not be wasted when their cases go to trial.

About Kevin Cassie

Kevin Cassie is a student of journalism of COSTAATT and an avid reader of anything from best-selling novels to funny prints on t-shirts. He promised to make his wife rich through his writing and feels guilty sometimes for allowing her to believe it could happen.

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40 comments

  1. “In the end, Hislop believes improving the way justice is administered would not only reduce crime but public confidence in the legal system; and the confidence of police officers who will know their efforts in apprehending criminals will not be wasted when their cases go to trial.” Our next government needs to take this and make it part of their to do list…

  2. Shame that these people are roaming freely…. “Local businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson are accused of various fraud charges arising out of the construction of the Piarco Airport Development Project in 2002. For over ten years the case still remains in an inquiry state, while both men have been resisting extradition to the United States to face charges related to the Piarco project.” Whether or not they exploit loopholes in the system…anyone who continues to seek to do business with these men should be painted with the same brush…

  3. It’s sad that Mr Hislop’s recommendations won’t be considered because nobody wouldn’t be able to eat ah food off of what he said, and the people charged with administering justice seem not to have the will to make fundamental changes followed by an executive who seems not to give a damn

  4. Well, still we are asking the same questions today which we asked twenty years ago when the problem started raising its ugly head and a then Randy tried to deal with it in his own way. We always look to America for answers to this problem, if we do then the comment of ” the wild wild west” has to be used as a way of dealing with the problem maybe a “WYATT OR DOC HOLIDAY”. Let’s take a step back and look for help. Singapore had a problem identical to ours and what did they do? Are we afraid to adopt what is necessary to stop the blatant killing of innocent citizens? Are we willing to surrender to the ones that drive the “hidden economy” financing political parties to obtain power only to become impotent? One day some new leader will stand up and say no more and follow the Singapore method. I can only pray to the one God for help.

  5. Now that their clients getting killed they want to do something. When they killing innocent ppl and they getting them off with all the loopholes it didn’t bother them.

  6. Keep up the good work ! Who can’t see this is a good move f**k dem too

  7. Fight fire with fire, kill them all

  8. Ann McCarthy, I don’t know who you are and I don’t need to. I just know that if i were a media manager, I would be making every effort to find you and get you to talk to one of my reporters. Yours is sure, in my opinion, to be a truly eye-opening story.

  9. It is always us against them. And, no mater what side of the equation you are on, that formula weakens us all.

  10. What is the solution to the crime situation? Do the honest citizens have faith in the police force? Can almost feel people cheering when a criminal is killed and it is sad to understand why some people say ….”good another one off the street, good another bandit gone to his grave not to harass anyone again”. Police force seems impotent because some people feel police are a waste of time with some crimes not being reported to the police. Matters that are reported sometimes do not get prosecuted with some people afraid to be witnesses, court matters taking years, sometimes police prosecuting cases not turning up in court (on sick leave, on holidays, overseas or transferred out of the district) then there are times when criminals ‘buy off’ their victims. Some people also DO NOT TRUST THE POLICE. Someone told me the other day of a woman who called the police to complain about some youth and their behaviour outside her home on the street, smoking weed, bad language etc. Not too long after woman had called the police one of the youth men called out to the woman and told her that they know she called the police. What are the police doing about the migration to rural communities and squatting areas of some bandits or members of gangs? I know this is happening for sure. From personnel experience I know on election days in my small community very few new voters on the list yet there seems to be ‘strangers’ in the community in a certain area which is well known for all sorts of activities and it is said ‘lots of illegal guns’ in there. We have one or two police vehicles in this particular district in a rural/coastal community which is also notorious for being a transhipment region for illegal drugs which travel down a road to feed the monster of a illegal drug trade in other parts of the nation along the east/west corridor. A lot of information on the street, even the smallest child can tell people who sells what and sometimes when a shipment has come in but for some reason ‘intelligence’ and the political will to stem the illegal gun and drug trade that is basically the root of the crime in this nation seems to have disappeared. Should not be that traveling in my region must make sure travel in certain vehicles and just hope never to be caught in a police road block when someone might draw out a gun and there is nowhere to hide. Have been caught in a police road block in my private vehicle with police stopping car behind me with a few millions dollars worth of weed, extremely scary situation and not one I would ever like to go through again. Nowadays life behind a tall gate and fence with locked gate and burglar proofing. Living in our own jails, using peep holes to view who has pulled up outside the gate and beeped the horn. At night before the sun sets, all doors shut and hardly outside even to bring in the washing in the garage with this being a routine repeated in many parts of the nation. Sweet T & T has become a nation where people live in a self imposed prison, so yes, do not like the situation but I understand why some people have no problem with police shooting the ‘criminals.’

  11. Which known approach will fix crime ? Do the experts know the ROOT-CAUSE of CRIME to begin to fix it ? Or aren’t they always dealing with the symptoms ?
    One criminologist once said that crime is a “spiritual” problem. I wonder what was meant by that ? Surely, positivists won’t agree to that ! So they can’t help, right ?
    If it is so, is there any expert or group capable of dealing with “spiritual” things ? Can secularists help ?
    See the mess poor T&T is in !

  12. Police killing the criminals are in a sense eliminating the problem. The judicial inadequacy puts criminals back on the street… I know which one I prefer.

  13. In some ways we are already in a military state (as long as we consider impoverished areas like Beetham Gardens still a part of TNT) Gabrielle Gellineau you are right there are parts of the population who are influential that wanna see more police killings because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that the dogs of war will not turn on them, and in a sense the police are there solely to protect them and their interests. We are currently in dark times in Trinidad, sad to say!

  14. I certainly don’t agree with the approach and it is a slippery slope which may eventually turn us into a military state. Loud mouths like me that take no BS will be the first to be arrested as political prisoners. But I’ve heard people say these actions make GG seem competent and inspires confidence. Maybe Trinis willing to become a military state in exchange for the carrot of lower crime rates? I don’t know the crime rate has people beyond scared they may be willing to sacrifice their freedom for ‘safety’.

  15. Renee Cummings you can try the SRP route to become a member of the TTPS. You seem to be able bodied and you are far far far far from 60.

  16. and i wonder why all we other ‘bright’ people not seeing/talking bout this?…smh

  17. justice is not a cloistered virtue,it should be seen and appeared to be done ,not persons playing the role of judge jury and executioner,there are conflicting statements,insp alexander has refuted the individual who was shot and killed in freeport is the person involved in the killing of dana,which of the information is correct.mixed signals

  18. Swift justice Ian? Just hope and pray none of your Children or any members of your Family get caught in the crossfire. “Be careful what you wish for”

  19. I have consistently on this medium advocating that the wild west approach to justice is not working ,we are in a mind set of the american west frontier or vigilante justice,is the police and law enforcement authorities declaring war on the civil population,the minister of national security has misplaced priorities ,no comprehensive approach to deal with rising crime levels.white collar crime has escalated over the last four years,not one white collar criminal has ever being brought before a court of law to answer to a charge,the fraud squad lacks the resources to investigate and charge these criminals..send Ish and his side kick to the us and crime levels will drop,white collar crime fuels street crime,time the minister and cop resign abject failures

    • Albert,thanks so much for the refreshing view on what exists in Trinidad and Tobago. The authorities now have reached a mind set where in the words of the National Security Minister,”We will fight fire with fire. Run the cockroaches out of their holes and crush them.” As a result the Police Service and Defence Force are waging a war on all sectors of the population. For those among us too scared to speak then they are some among us who are not. This current situation cannot be allowed to continue. No doubt,the Police have been in cases executing individuals who have not taken up so much as a banana against them. Yet the daily statement is shots were fired in the direction of the police. In some cases not one gunshot can be found in the area where the police stood. The criminal justice system has to play its part but before that action has to be taken to bring those officers acting with such impunity before the courts.

  20. We need whatever law the that Texas has and maybe crime reduce, cause I’m sure a gang or a bandit will think twice, once he knows everyone has a gun and someone maybe more brutal or faster that he / they. just maybe!

  21. So Lasana did you see the clip on CNN where they edited out a 4 year old black kid saying he wanted to be a police officer when he grew to and made it look like the kid just wanted a gun?
    If you think that was racist editing ! Then I have to ask you , where is the picture of Ish at the PNM functions he also frequently attends ? He happens to be a donator BOTH parties and it was JOHN JEREMY who ended ALL LOCAL charges against Ish … Anand Ramlogan , actually restarted the local case in 2010 …

    So basically Lasana, I am saying you are just as unethical and immoral as the people who decided to make that 4 year old black kid who wanted to be a police officer look like a thug in waiting !

    • Lasana Liburd

      Please send me the photo of Ish snuggling with John Jeremy, Patrick Manning, Keith Rowley or whichever PNM frontline member you can find. I will be happy to publish it.
      Enjoy your weekend sunshine.

  22. You don’t know what justice looks like eh Ian? I’m not surprised that any Trini has trouble identifying justice. And I’m even less surprised when you are that Trini. 😉

  23. Finally, swift justice. Is that a murder solved or what?

  24. Kirk A Inniss investigative training…links detection and arrests and convictions.

  25. There’s also a cold cases unit (understaffed though). I would love to head that unit but I’m not a police officer!

  26. So we have one and we have some method of police intel (because criminals are obviously known to the police), so how does a country like ours connect the missing dots and improve detection rates?

  27. Kirk yes there’s a CSI unit.

  28. Is there a CSI unit in the country? A team that collects data, DNA, forensics. Basic police intel. Do we have that? And what about murder cases, are the unsolved ones from say 2004 still open? What happens when the new year starts and homicide numbers gets reset?

  29. Gabrielle indeed a demographic supports that approach

  30. The man shot dead by the police is a suspect though Gabrielle Gellineau. Only the courts can decide if someone is a criminal.
    Known to the police is a near empty term.

  31. Well there is a section of the society that feels good when they hear a bandit or a murderer or smne known to the police got killed by the police. Don’t be fooled this approach is gaining support

  32. If you do like them you become them.

  33. The direction in which TTPS policing is heading concerns me immensely. We are heading down a slippery slope. As I have stated yesterday, responsible law enforcement is paramount. Extra-judicial police killings will not resolve our crime problem.
    TTPS must do its best to assure that police vigilantism is not seeping into its modus operandi. Policing is complex and critical to the public health of communities from what I have learned and experienced in my years.
    The more we encourage police to exercise extra-judicially in the field, the more the relationship between police and the people becomes strained. Therefore the objective of our communities and police should be about building bridges between communities and police. That is essential to building trust, sharing information and collaborating to fight crime.
    Responsible law enforcement must be tempered with, and based on, a thorough investigation of the facts surrounding any incident before approving deadly force.

  34. Detection before anything else; clearing rates are critical and officer training an imperative! Criminal justice reform, across the board, is vital!

  35. He missed a vital part of the discussion, before it gets to the judicial failures and/or shortcomings. Before the court appearance and seemingly inevitable backlog, there has to first be an investigation and and then an arrest..

  36. Good piece. Maybe we should also start talking about our own Ferguson-style cops. The one in Missouri, I mean.

  37. Thanks to Wired868, I know about the turkey who voted in favour of Thanksgiving but seriously, does anybody expect this government to improve judicial efficiency? Really? Do devils pray?