Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi during yesterday’s debate on the Anti-Gang (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Gang members cut down by half.

This was announced yesterday by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who said the number of gangs in T&T had dropped by some 38 per cent since 2018 and the number of gang members had been decreased by 57 per cent also.

“We’re seeing a positive trend in gang activity – going downwards largely due to the T&T Police Service’s pressure,” Al-Rawi said in piloting debate on the Anti-Gang Bill in Parliament.

Government presented an amendment to extend the life of the bill another 30 months. It required a vote from three-fifths of the 41 MPs for passage. But the Opposition has complained the bill hasn’t produced any results in its existence and subsequently abstained from voting, defeating its extension. This means the Anti-Gang legislation will cease to be law from November 29, 2020. The last bill was passed in 2018 with a sunset clause.

A statement from the National Security stated this will have very serious negative effects on the TTPS’ fight against gangs and criminality.

But in launching debate yesterday afternoon, Al-Rawi said he’d given statistics in 2018 that there were 211 gangs in T&T then. However, he said the TTPS has said that due to “consistent targetting and pressure,” gang activity had gone downward.

Today, he said TTPS has said the 211 gangs has dropped by 38 per cent, down to 129 gangs. The total number of people in gangs was reported in 2018 to be 2,400.

“But in 2020 that number is now down to 1,014 – a 57 per cent decrease,” Al-Rawi added.

“The TTPS has been doing yeoman service. In 2018, we had 22 gang-related murders solved, with 28 people arrested. In 2019 there were 13 gang-related murders with 10 arrested. And in 2020, there were five gang-related murders solved and 13 arrests.”

He said matters were now coming to court where individual elements were being charged.

Al-Rawi said there’s been some respite from gang offences and the Police Commissioner had said murders were going down “… Without a state of emergency. So it must be a consequence of heavy police and intelligence action,” he said.

He said apart from the 30-month extension being sought, Government is in deep consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, intelligence and law enforcement on certain further amendments required for the Anti-Gang law.

This includes the Interception of Communication Act and provisions for the bugging and recording of inmates in certain circumstances in the prisons. Al-Rawi said it’s known gang activity exists in the prisons.

“Until we do a second round of amendments to this act, it’s appropriate to have a sunset clause. We wanted a 30-month extension as statistics show we’ve halved gang activity and seen a 40 per cent reduction in gangs – and we’ve seen no issues coming out of witness protection. Due to the COVID-19 environment, it would be inappropriate to have any less time than 30 months of trial.”

He said this was also because some enquiries have not yet started and premises have been located for the judiciary to handle this. Outfitting of these locations is expected in a matter of months.

On the number of cases done under the law, he said 142 people were charged in the 2011 State of Emergency, one was convicted, 33 matters are before Magistrates’ Courts and 40 in the High Courts.

The AG said the judicial criticism of the 2011 Act involved malicious prosecution and false imprisonment and the state was forced to pay millions in damages due to poor instructions provided.

“The past prime minister and Anand Ramlogan refused to give evidence in the courts to justify the 2011 SoE and the state was obliged to pay millions in damages.”

Under the Anti-Gang law of 2018, he said there were 38 matter in courts with nine people charged for being gang leaders – and now almost 110 matters before the courts

Al-Rawi said the new legislation had received support from Court of Appeal judge Nolan Bereaux.