Changes to the Anti-Gang bill will require police to have a warrant to enter and search premises and they will only be able to detain people for 48 hours – unlike the previous Anti-Gang proposals.
The bill piloted in the Senate yesterday by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is aimed at gangs in the country – several of which like the North Eastern “Shine” gang and others in Princes Town and Tobago have already been dismantled.
Al-Rawi detailed the Anti-Gang bill’s history of failing to secure Opposition support for passage from 2016 to 2018. But he said the rapid growth of gangs has made the need for the bill urgent due to social damage.
He noted stories of people in gangs kidnapping young women, drivers linked to alleged kidnappers and extortion of money by others. Al-Rawi also cited citizens’ marches and calls which he commended.
“One placard read ‘Walk free nor brave,” he noted, saying the bill was aimed at allowing people to walk free – not brave.
The bill’s changed clauses – which do not infringe constitutional rights- do away with the special majority vote needed for passage. It also removes the sunset clause – which stipulates when a bill would end- which the previous formats had.
Unlike previous Anti-Gang bills, it requires police to have warrants to enter and search premises. It provides for the detention of people for 48 hours as opposed to 72. Judge’s approval will be required for longer detentions, attorneys will be able to file writs of habeas corpus to challenge detentions. Forfeiture of culprits’ property will be sought via the Proceeds of Crime act.
“We want to take gang members’ property,” he added.
Al-Rawi reiterated reductions of gangs and members, arrests and charges of members for murders, large transnational operations and “weed” seizures. He noted the Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU’s) report which cited almost $30 billion in suspicious transactions.
Al-Rawi said he didn’t need the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute to tell him about the situation.
He said landmark cases were in court.
Opposition wants Procurement Act
Opposition senator Jayanti Lutchmedial called for the Procurement act to prevent gang members from getting State contracts.
While happy with the provision for the police to have warrants to enter premises, she however called for conditions to protect innocent people who may attract police scrutiny on the basis that they ought to know if an adult or child who’s a gang member lives on their property. She said such people might spend 10 years in court trying to clear their name.
She took issue with the forfeiture clause involving the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Lutchmedial also called for the special majority position to be reinstated as well as the sunset clause; the latter to measure the effectiveness of the bill which she said was draconian.
“Everything in this bill is already an offence in the law,” she added, saying Al-Rawi brought the bill at this time since emotions were running high.
She said it was irresponsible of him to be speaking about some matters which are before the courts.
She said the Opposition didn’t support previous bills since there was no evidence to show effectiveness and statistics cited on the reduction of gangs didn’t state where members had disappeared to. “You found a way around us,” she added, reinforcing her recommendations.