The escape of Anthony Smith during his trial for human trafficking is one of serious concern and needs to be discussed at an urgent meeting of Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security.
This from UNC senator and representative on the JSC, Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.
She, like her fellow UNC member Roodal Moonilal, is also requesting that National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and the ministry’s Electronic Monitoring Unit appear before the committee to answer questions about Smith absconding.
Smith removed his ankle monitoring bracelet and disappeared six days after the start of his trial.
He was eventually tried in-absentia, found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Lutchmedial said the matter needed to be addressed urgently as it posed risks to national security.
“We believe it’s something that requires urgent attention and that we must inquire further, because electronic monitoring is an integral part of offender management and managing persons who are on bail. If that system is not functioning as it should be then the entire country is at risk. It is a huge national security risk.”
“It puts the entire system of justice into disrepute when you can convict persons and then simply cannot find them to actually imprison them, especially for serious matters like human trafficking,” Lutchmedial added.
She said she expected a positive response from committee chairman, MP for Port of Spain South Keith Scotland.
“When ammunition with TT Police Service (TTPS) and TT Defence Force (TTDF) markings were being found on crime scenes, we wrote the chairman about it and he acceded to our request. So I’m hoping that we get a similar response in this case, because likewise, it is also a matter that I think is of grave concern to the public.
“It deals with public confidence in our systems, like the defence force, police and the entire national security infrastructure and personnel working within it. When you have matters affecting public confidence in those institutions, I think it is exceptionally urgent. So I hope that the chairman will treat this one with the same level of urgency.”
Lutchmedial anticipated the other members of the committee would see past politics and treat the matter with the urgency it deserves.
Smith’s conviction has also been marred by the judiciary’s subsequent revelation that during the trial, witnesses claimed police officers were clients of Smith’s 16-year-old sex-trafficking victim.
The judiciary has since forwarded the information to the counter-trafficking unit.
Lutchmedial said while it might be a historic conviction, it was unlikely to act as a deterrent.
“To really create a deterrent effect out of convictions, you need something that’s sustained, where you show there’s a machinery in place and that it’s actually working.
“With just one conviction, people might end up conceiving that you just got lucky with that particular case (while) other people who are doing it, they will just be more careful.
“It seems unlikely to me that just having a single conviction at this point in time is really going to make a dent in the problem itself.”
She said, “Based on deterrence theory and how it really works, what we really need to deter crime is a sustained ability of a criminal justice system to detect crimes when they happen. That’s a big problem that we face, because that isn’t happening with a very large range of crimes.”