Law Association offers its feedback on new Anti-Gang Bill

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Law Association offers its feedback on new Anti-Gang Bill

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) has offered suggestions on the Anti-Gang legislation and said that, unlike the 2019 version, there is no intention to pass this bill with a three-fifths majority.

In correspondence to the Attorney General, the Opposition Leader and all nine independent senators on Thursday, LATT said it is incumbent on the association to draw attention to any violation of constitutional rights contained in the bill.

On March 16, the Senate is expected to continue debate on the legislation, which proposes stiffer penalties for those convicted of a crime under the act, including 25 years’ jail for gang leaders.

The association said “It is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice that a person could be charged with and convicted of an offence for financing a group of persons for purely altruistic reasons without knowing that they are engaged in criminal activity.

“The failure to require the necessary mental element of the offence is not cured by section 4, which lists the various types of evidence which may be adduced to prove the existence of or membership in a gang. It does not require knowledge of the criminal activities of the gang to establish the offence,” was one of the points the association raised.

It recommended that the offences be defined to make knowledge of the criminal activities of the gang an element of the offence.

On the issue of warrant searches, the LATT said it saw no justification for vesting in the police the broad power the legislation gives .

It recommended that the section on detaining a suspect should require the police to be actively engaged in investigating the offence during the first 48 hours of arrest, “otherwise, the 48-hour detention would be arbitrary in violation of the Constitution.

“Therefore, the police officer is permitted to detain a person without charge for 48 hours on the basis of reasonable belief and simply lock the suspect away in a police station while he busies himself with other matters or goes on a short holiday.”

Further detention for a maximum of 14 days, with the permission of a judge, should also include evidence under oath and the legislation should specifically say the new application should be made after the first 48 hours expires.

The association suggested that the application for further detention and the judge’s order should be done within the first 48 hours.