The Commissioner of Police is of the view that the suggestion that the release of individuals without ascertaining their criminal history and the possibility of their absconsion would be grossly negligent.
His statement comes on the heels of articles in the daily newspapers dated March 16th, 2021, one of which published a headline, “Judge alarmed, as man claims Gary Griffith denied him bail”.
In the newspaper articles, it was reported that a constitutional claim was brought before the High Court concerning allegations that a Mr Keston Jackie was detained for approximately 37 hours after an alleged breach of the Public Health Ordinance Regulations in relation to public gathering in a group of more than five persons. The articles assert that the Commissioner of Police allegedly ordered his officers not to facilitate the granting of bail to the said individual.
The articles include certain comments by the presiding judge which appear to represent judicial censure whereby it states, “People have to understand the remit of their authority and bat within their crease”. The Commissioner of Police, therefore, takes this opportunity to state his concern of the possible prejudice to this matter that may result from the pre-trial publicity and the ventilation of the current litigation in the court of public opinion, before it can be determined in a court of law.
The reports, both by the headlines and contents seem to suggest that a member of the judiciary, prior to ruling on the matter before them, is openly articulating his position on the merits of the matter. These predeterminations, as represented in the said articles, call into question the fairness of the current proceedings and the appropriateness of the alleged conduct of the said judicial official as such assertions may reflect possible bias, particularly given the fact that the instant proceedings are at a nascent stage. While the Commissioner of Police is cognizant of the fact that the matters being reported upon are sub-judice, he remains adamant that the Commissioner of Police is obligated to speak out against misinformation that may be circulating in the public domain to prevent ambiguity as to the policies and procedures of the organization.
The Commissioner observes that the article in question has failed to disclose the relevant facts surrounding the arrest of Keston Jackie. What remains unreported is that Mr Jackie was arrested alongside 67 other individuals, including Akedo Williams also known as “Sunday” and “Burkie”, as well as other persons well known to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Following these arrests, the police officers involved then had to process all 68 persons, obtain their fingerprint impressions, carry out checks of the relevant fingerprint database, and conduct investigations based on available intelligence. These steps were necessary as there were many persons, who had been arrested, who were suspected of nefarious criminal activity and were already under the watchful eye of the Police Service.
The articles aforementioned raise issues as it relates to the involvement of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in the issuance of own bail or station bail. The Commissioner of Police is not unaware of the prevailing legislative regime and enshrined constitutional rights to bail, particularly the rights of individuals to bail themselves in relation to summary offences. However, he emphasizes that the law also accounts for checks and balances in relation to this procedure.
The Commissioner of Police further states that the law outlines certain considerations that must be taken into account before bail is granted, such as an individual’s antecedents. As it relates to the arrest of Mr Jackie, the said individual was arrested with a large number of persons, many of whom possess a colourful criminal background. These circumstances necessitated the provision relevant information relative to the grant of bail which first had to be obtained.
In light of the above, the Commissioner of Police is of the view that the suggestion that the release of individuals without ascertaining their criminal history and the possibility of their absconsion would be grossly negligent. Moreover, it is widely understood by the various common law precedents that persons may generally be detained for up to 48 hours by the Police Service before being charged and placed before the court. The 37 hours being complained of by Mr Jackie ought not to be sensationalized, particularly when consideration is given to the nature of the circumstances surrounding his arrest. Therefore, the Commissioner reiterates that in the current matter and the general execution of his duties, the safety of this nation’s citizens remains his paramount concern and he reiterates his commitment to ensuring same through the lawful execution of his functions.