AG: Migrants linked to certain crimes

T&T is grap­pling with eco­nom­ic mi­grants since Venezue­lans be­gan to seek refuge here and it is a fact that the coun­try has seen an uptick in “cer­tain of the crimes” as re­sult of some of the mi­grant is­sues, says At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi.

“The Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er can speak to that him­self,” Al-Rawi added in Sen­ate on Tues­day.

“But suf­fice to say the num­ber of mur­ders has been not­ed to have risen as a re­sult of some of our mi­gra­tion is­sues. I’m not talk­ing on­ly about Venezuela, I’m talk­ing about oth­er po­si­tions.”

The AG was pi­lot­ing amend­ments to the Bail Act to de­ny bail for peo­ple with con­vic­tions, found in pos­ses­sion of guns. The bill pro­hibits bail for those on se­ri­ous of­fences found with guns. Claus­es in­clude al­low­ing a per­son to ap­ply for bail if a tri­al has not start­ed in 120 days or been com­plet­ed in a year.

The pro­posed changes will be re­viewed af­ter five years and it re­quires a three-fifths ma­jor­i­ty vote for pas­sage.

Al-Rawi ad­mit­ted the bill may vi­o­late con­sti­tu­tion­al as­pects and could be chal­lenged in court. But he said sta­tis­tics have shown a “cool­ing off pe­ri­od” of­ten oc­curs with such leg­is­la­tion. He not­ed the UNC once brought sim­i­lar law.

Al-Rawi not­ed the pro­lif­er­a­tion of guns en­ter­ing T&T—4,387 be­tween 2009 and 2019. This in­clud­ed a to­tal of 43 sub-ma­chine guns, ri­fles and shot­guns. He not­ed 17,271 firearm mat­ters in courts over the pe­ri­od.

“The phe­nom­e­non of ma­chine guns alone and T&T’s mur­der sta­tis­tics—T&T needs a fight­ing chance. We’re deal­ing with arms and am­mu­ni­tion com­ing from out­side our ju­ris­dic­tion...a preva­lence of sub-ma­chine guns, shot­guns and ri­fles,” he said, ask­ing if the Gov­ern­ment should ig­nore the sit­u­a­tion and the uptick in crime and eco­nom­ic mi­gra­tion.

In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor An­tho­ny Vieira, sup­port­ing the bill, said T&T should make it clear to its “bad boys” to “lay down your arms as Par­lia­ment won’t al­low you to car­ry il­le­gal arms. If you do there will be dire con­se­quences. We have to draw a line—there’ve been too many weep­ing moth­ers and sud­den deaths.”

“I re­mem­ber a time when homes had no bur­glar-bars (sic) and you could leave your car un­locked. I went away last week and it was so re­fresh­ing not to feel threat­ened. T&T has lost so much, it no longer feels safe. We have a scourge of il­le­gal arms. Be­cause of what’s hap­pen­ing in Venezuela, guns are bar­ter­ing tools—enough is enough. The car­nage on streets, il­le­gal gun trade, gang wars and weep­ing moth­ers show there’s just cause for the bill.”

Vieira sug­gest­ed amend­ments to pro­tect peo­ple who might be framed. He not­ed cas­es years ago where he had de­fend­ed peo­ple who had been framed for gun and drug is­sues, adding that all sorts of is­sues arose in­clud­ing po­lice tak­ing short­cuts.

Op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tor Sad­dam Ho­sein, call­ing for the with­draw­al of the bill, said it is not a time to give po­lice added pow­ers. He not­ed ques­tions on the qual­i­ty of ev­i­dence and pros­e­cu­tion re­cent­ly and added po­lice pow­ers should not be in­creased when de­tec­tion rates are on­ly be­tween 20 and 30 per cent. He not­ed a sim­i­lar bail bill the UNC Gov­ern­ment pre­sent­ed did not suc­ceed. He said the long wait for bal­lis­tic re­ports, leav­ing those on re­mand to lan­guish for years.

“We’re see­ing a trend of bills vi­o­lat­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al rights—a grow­ing dic­ta­tor­ship, the death of democ­ra­cy,” he added, say­ing UNC would not sup­port the bill.

- by Gail Alexander

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