A national outcry highlighting the failure of State institutions erupted after the death of Andrea Bharatt.
And while blame was cast on the government, the Opposition, as well as the Executive and Judicial Arms of Government, various non-governmental and faith-based organizations have also joined in calling for reform.
Attorney Kevin Ratiram who is also president of the NGO Rapid Fire Kidz Foundation said the criminal justice system needs to be revamped and there should be special emphasis on the prevention of crime.
“While we must look at reform of the judicial system our ultimate aim should be preventing the production of criminals. That has a lot to do with the home environment, upbringing and the presence of a father in the home. There are so many homes where fathers are absent, partially absent and delinquent,” Ratiram said.
The attorney who has spearheaded several mentoring programmes for underprivileged children appealed to men to live up to their fatherly responsibilities.
“Don’t just be there. Be there and offer the guidance that your sons need, offer the discipline that your sons need and set the example that they need to grow up into responsible law-abiding young men and citizens,” he said.
Regarding the reform of the criminal justice system, Ratiram said there were several changes in the criminal justice system which was needed immediately.
“We need more trial courts and more judges who can deal with murder cases expeditiously. It is unacceptable to have someone in custody for 15 years and more awaiting trial. We need to give the judiciary more resources to try cases in a more timely fashion,” he said.
He added, “I also want the criminal procedure rules amended to ensure that witness statements that have to be filed by the Prosecution are filed in a specified time.”
He explained that currently under the system, there is no limit expressed by the rules for the prosecution to file witness statements.
“My experience has been that the prosecution comes to court month after month and they say we still have witness statements outstanding and they get repeated adjournments to file these witness statements. A defendant is prejudiced by that because the matter is going to take longer to be tried and determined,” he added.
Ratiram recommended that the Criminal Procedure Rules be amended so the Prosecution will have between 90 to 120 days to file all witness statements.
Another factor that affects the length of cases was the delays in getting forensic testing.
For firearm cases, the Forensic Sciences Centre has to test firearms to determine whether it falls under the legal definition of a firearm. This can sometimes take years, Ratiram added.
“Sometimes we have long delays in getting a matter started solely because the exhibit is awaiting testing from the lab at the Forensic Science Centre,” he said.
Noting that the centre is overburdened, Ratiram said, “ The time has come to have at least one or more forensic centers set up in South, Central or even in Tobago. This will go a long way in ensuring that firearm matters can be tried more expeditiously.”
He also recommended that the death penalty be implemented for certain categories of murder such as the killing of police, soldiers, women, children, elderly as well as unprovoked murder.
Meanwhile, moderator of the T&T Presbyterian Church Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan agrees that one of the fundamental ways to stop T&T from slipping into societal decay is to focus on building strong families.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Abdul-Mohan said re-socialization must come from within the home.
“ Mothers must teach their sons the value of expression and respect. Fathers must teach their daughters what is acceptable and what is intolerable. Parents must teach their children how to deal with rejection and relationships,” she said.
Noting that it takes a village to raise a child, Abdul-Mohan said more families are facing socio-economic strain because of COVID-19.
With calls for parenting programmes to be implemented in communities across the country, Abdul-Mohan said there should be special emphasis on the sanctity of human life.
She also called for a national plan to save T&T.