The Law Association of T&T (LATT) has said it does not support the denial of bail and the use of the death penalty to appease public outcry over violence against women.
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, the association broke its silence and said it was extremely concerned about the increasing level of violent crimes and the nationwide protest following the kidnapping and murder of Judiciary clerk Andrea Bharatt.
Although the association said that it supports the denial of bail for people charged with violent crimes, who are likely to re-offend if granted bail, it noted that such provisions were already valid law.
“The call for the automatic denial of bail to someone charged with a specified offence, whether it be rape or kidnapping, comes at the expense of denying long-cherished constitutional rights, such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and effectively puts the decision whether someone should be deprived of his liberty for long
periods of time solely in the hands of the police,” it said.
“This would be a disproportionate response and would constitute a jail sentence without a trial in an already broken criminal justice system,” it added.
It also sought to give its views on renewed calls to take steps to enforce the mandatory death penalty for murder and include rape.
“LATT is fully aware that the call for the resumption of hanging might assuage our collective need for revenge but apart from the now undisputed fact that hanging does not deter crime, it serves no useful purpose to advocate for same if the police are unable to find the perpetrators of the many unsolved murders in the first place and, if when charged, the accused become lost in the criminal justice system for years,” it said.
It also condemned reports of people launching verbal attacks on attorneys of people charged with heinous crimes and judicial officers, who sometimes grant them bail.
“To advocate a system of justice with undefended criminal defendants is to encourage a totalitarian state. Putting magistrates under the glare of public ridicule threatens the independence of the judiciary and undermines public confidence in the administration of justice,” it said.
It noted that it believed that the current Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2020 would not contribute as contemplated. The legislation has also not received Opposition support.
“The LATT has already submitted to Parliament that by any amendment to the Bill must not only be workable but must be legally sound and ought not chip away incrementally at our constitutional rights and freedoms that characterize a democratic society,” it said.
Addressing the prevalence of gender-based violence, the association suggested that inequality and sexist attitudes had to be addressed through parenting and the education system.
Besides offering to continue to contribute through consultation as a stakeholder, the association also sought to give some practical advice on steps to improve criminal justice.
“LATT, therefore, repeats its call for the proper allocation of funding to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and appropriate use of resources that are already available to the Ministry of National Security to aid in the nationwide prompt detection of criminal activities, the upgrade of the Forensic Sciences Centre to allow for the timely processing of DNA and ballistic data, and an increased efficiency of the judicial system and compliment of adequately trained judicial officers and support staff to ensure a smooth and seamless dispensation of justice,” it ended.