Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds says he will be guided by the acting Police Commissioner on the approach the Police Service is taking on the evidential requirement under the Anti-Gang law.
Hinds told the T&T Guardian that lawyers and the police service would have “studied the Anti-Gang law. The Police Service has worked in collaboration with the office of the DPP and they would have conducted workshops in order to understand the law and the evidential requirement.”
Hinds’ comment came hours after Williams said the police could not use intelligence gathered in the past against gang leaders and criminals to make a case against them today, and would instead have to build current cases against them. He said while the police “have clear indicators as to persons who are involved in criminal activities and gang activities,” they could not go in a “retrospective way and take evidence of the past and make a case in the present.”
During the debate on the Anti-Gang legislation, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi had presented an affidavit from Williams to the Parliament which made the case for the urgency of the legislation as a tool in the arsenal of the police. The Parliament was told the police knew the number of gangs and the names of gang members.
Yesterday, Hinds said while the law “is critical the evidence is also critical and therefore the police and prosecutors will know the evidence required in order to form a conviction under the Anti-Gang law.”
Hinds reiterated his position that there was a crisis, saying, “As a citizen what I do know is that the public is very, very concerned that those who are involved in the mayhem that we witnessed on the Boardwalk and at Erica Street in Laventille be put to an end.”
If it means dealing with the gangs, he said “the public is looking forward to its application and to get some relief and peace in society.”
Al-Rawi is currently out of the country and attempts to reach acting AG Stuart Young were unsuccessful yesterday as he did not answer his cell phone.
DPP Roger Gaspard was also unavailable for comment.
Also contacted yesterday, Criminal Bar Association president Pamela Elder declined comment until she saw Williams’ statement.
However, a senior member of the association, who did not want to be named, told the T&T Guardian “it’s a troubling statement that has to be carefully analysed.”
But Senator Gerald Ramdeen, who participated in the debate on the Anti-Gang legislation, accused the Government of “hoodwinking the population.”
“They misrepresented to the population and gave the population false hope that the passage of the Anti-Gang legislation will bring some sort of relief to the people and citizens of the country.”
He described Williams’ statement as a “cop-out.”
“It’s a feeble excuse for the failure of the TTPS to arrest, charge or detain a single citizen since passage of the legislation,” Ramdeen said.
Criminal attorney Wayne Sturge meanwhile said Williams was right about learning lessons.
“He is correct, in 2011 they used evidence prior to proclamation. The stupidity of the statement is if you knew who they were prior to the proclamation that does not change. In essence, you only have to present evidence that the police had someone who infiltrated a gang and was able to say this person was a gang member, a member of a gang turned state evidence and could identify other gang members.”
In both scenarios, he said, a month was sufficient. The Anti-Gang Act was proclaimed on May 28.
Sturge said a police officer could also give evidence saying he had been doing surveillance and had noticed persons doing things which suggested they were part of a gang.