Fareed Ali states that as disturbing as the death of Ashanti Riley is equally so is the failure of Parliament to pass into law the Evidence Amendment Bill 2019.
The criminal attorney said “It must be noted that its successful piloting through the parliament provides no assurance that the ills it seek to address will secure the rights of the accused or the victims of criminality.
He said “As an attorney representing the accused it does not augur well that provisions amending the law protecting accused from police abuses of power has not been formalized.
The escalating criminality against women is a side note in the justice system.
The Domestic Violence Act has been amended to afford greater protection to victims of gender based violence and the attendant public approval does not go unnoticed.”
Ali added “It is equally appalling that in 2020 the Parliament is yet to secure the passage of the long over due amendment to the Evidence Act which affords a layer of protection to those detained by police whilst under arrest.
The Evidence Amendment Bill 2019 requires a 3/5 majority to be passed into law.
He said if the passage of the latter follows the travails of the passage of the amendments to the Procurement Act, it means that suspects in police custody may continue to suffer wretched violations of their constitutional and human rights without redress.
It is a travesty that draws no public scorn because it affords protection to suspects of crime in police custody.
Police officers who lawlessly violate the rights of persons in their custody will continue to escape with impunity as long as the amendment fails to receive the required majority to become law.
The Bill addresses how the TTPS treats with the following:
1) The practice and procedure in conducting Identification Exercises involving persons of interests and suspects whilst in police custody.
2) The practice and procedure police the must engage in treating with interviews of persons of interests in their care and treating with their oral admissions.
3) the offering of evidence by video link and preserving witness anonymity.
At first glance one may be deluded into thinking that the bill secures the rights of suspects. That is not so.
Ali said “In fact it does not underscore the constitutional and human rights of suspects are protected whilst under interrogation at police stations.
I can say without contradiction that this is not so.
“The modern police stations built within the past 5 years have been adapted to accommodate running water in a cell but far from the same can be said for the traditional ones where apart from the plumbing deficiencies there is no toilet.
The amendment may appear to be needed but certainly without the infrastructural changes that are an equal necessity at police station for accommodating suspects more needs to be done.
The agenda for changes in this area may not be popular but police stations are the first rung on the ladder of the criminal justice system.
Until steps along this ladder is taken impropriety associated with suspects in police custody will subsists.
The amendment to the legislation does not address such an area.
Further, the human rights abuses of starving suspects of appropriate food and denying baths and conveniences of brushing their teeth throughout their stay at police stations are part of the interrogation processes at our nations stations that the TTPS practice daily with recourse whilst suspects are being interrogated.
Whilst the public cry out for justice for innocent people that die because of the inability of the TTPS to provide a safe environment the abuses at police stations go unrecognized.
The experiences I refer to have been extended to arrested individuals through times immemorial with very little consequence.
If the parliamentarians wish to be taken seriously in their quest to improve the criminal justice system then they can start by ensuring that the customer service reception at police station that citizens rely upon to receive their complaints are done so by appropriately trained professionals.
Until the summation of the above is implemented then what is being practiced at our nations police stations is institutionalized criminality.