Laws which speak to a “high-tech” manner of treating with cases do not make sense when police stations are lacking basic resources such as paper, says Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.
Speaking yesterday during the debate of the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2020 at the Senate sitting, she noted that the bill provides for evidence to be taken via video recording and other “fancy” methods, but said the reality is police are starved for resources and ten years from now, when their cases are heard, accused persons are likely to walk free because of this.
She noted that funding for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) was reduced by almost $181 million in the last fiscal budget.
“Mr Vice President, police does be throwing BBQ on a Friday to raise money to buy paper and ink for the station,” she said.
Lutchmedial said she knows because she was asked to buy tickets.
She went on to recall her own experience.
“I have been to police stations where people get arrested for obscene language and a JP is waiting to grant them bail in the station because they get lock up at 1 o’clock in the morning, and you know what the police will tell you?
“‘We have no paper to print the charges on, he say you can go and get some paper for us,’ and at 2 o’clock in the morning I had to carry paper to a police station,” she said.
“If you think I making this up, I could give you name, rank and regimental number because I can tell you this is what the police are facing,” she added.
Creeping before sprinting
The senator said cases are being thrown out of magistrates’ court every day because the police didn’t do the disclosure or because they cannot photocopy the documents.
She said there are police officers who will scan documents with their phone and send it to a person’s phone via WhatsApp.
“That is what happens in reality and you come with all this fancy requirements now that an investigating officer must video-record the first description of the suspect in the approved form and so on, and do all of these nice things,” she said, reiterating there are no resources.
She said without the resources, none of this makes any sense.
Lutchmedial said the new set of requirements would be difficult to comply with, and creates room for cases to be thrown out of court and for people to walk free.
She noted the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recently said that there are a number of indictments that are more that ten years old.
She said the Government has the best intention to make laws that are very high-tech, but one needs to creep before sprinting, and the serious lack of resources has to be addressed before laws like this can make any impact.
Expensive witch hunt
Lutchmedial further criticised the move to bring “ad hominem” legislation for a specific case—the matter involving the Estate Management & Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).
She said this case is why the Government wants ease of admitting evidence, adding it will be the most expensive witch hunt this country will ever see.
Declaring she represents one of the persons in the EMBD matter that was appealed, she said: “Trinidad and Tobago nationals keep paying pounds to have a witch hunt take place that no charges have yet been brought. We continue to pay for a criminal investigation that is yet to yield charges.”
She said this is something the population and Parliament ought to take note of and be guarded because it would be improper to create legislation to target any person if that is being done. • See Page 16