In the wake of the escape of convicted child-trafficker Anthony Michael Smith, who was allegedly being monitored, San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein is now calling for the Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher, and the Electronic Monitoring Unit to be “hauled” before an emergency Joint Select Committee.
Smith, who was convicted under the Trafficking In Persons Act escaped house arrest after he removed his electronic ankle bracelet.
He was recently sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in absentia after he absconded and remains at large.
Speaking at the UNC’s weekly Sunday press briefing, Hosein said the unit, which was supposed to have monitored Smith and kept him under house arrest, during his trial, was compromised. He cited a shortage of staffing and inadequate equipment.
“It shows that this is a sordid affair…the fish is rotting from the head,” Hosein said. “What are they putting on people’s foot, a dog collar?”
He read from an affidavit that was sworn by then acting permanent secretary of the Ministry of National Security, Gary Joseph, in the Akili Charles matter in 2021, which highlighted several issues about the monitoring system.
“This is what the PS is telling the court – on the critical issue of staffing, it must be noted that the staffing for the unit is inadequate even for the current workload; a situation that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“The system requires staff to undertake site visits to where people reside and to undertake fittings as necessary to the existing high-risk environment. The resources of the unit have been stretched from the very inception.”
The affidavit also said that the units themselves were not suitable.
“The EMU currently has no equipment for the safe and effective monitoring of the accused and/or offender at the level identified in the judgement, and the judgement talks about murder; and human trafficking is the same thing, (these are) high risk offences. This is what the PS is saying on affidavit.”
The affidavit said the monitoring devices used do not meet the criteria for high risk offenders and are more suitable for what was described as a “lower threshold of offenders.”
Last Friday, director of the EMU Lawrence Hinds, during a press conference, said Smith was arrested in 2015 during a raid at a house in Cane Farm Road, Arouca and charged in 2016 with several counts of sexual penetration of a child, child prostitution, recruiting a child for the purpose of trafficking and offences against the person.
Hinds said while out on bail, Smith was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring system and placed on 24-hour curfew. When his trial began in September 2023, he showed up for several days, but on the September 24 hearing, he failed to show up.
Hinds said Smith’s device set off an alarm at about 6.32 am that day, which indicated it was tampered with.
“Following our standard procedure and all relevant checks we initiated the police response mechanism in order to locate Smith after all attempts to contact him failed,” Hinds said.