Jamille Broome writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
I love Carnival, I love soca, and I love to wine, but now according to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) “ah could get charge for winin’ like dat!” I have always described myself as a feminist, having spoken out several times about sexual harassment, and I definitely see the need to protect women from perverts, but this capricious decision to enforce the law on assault for winin’ is legally flawed, logically faulty, plain ridiculous, and incredibly dangerous for innocent men.
The TTPS is convinced that “teefin’ ah wine” constitutes a crime, but it is important for all of us to properly understand what constitutes an “assault” before the state ends up being sued left, right and centre because of over-zealous police officers being egged on by hyperbolists over at the feminist group, Womantra. Whilst one may be able to connote or imply a legal definition for the term “assault” in our local legislation, none exists — the only thing that does is the penalty. According to section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1921, as amended, the penalty for “assault” is stated as a fine of $400 or imprisonment for three months; whilst the Offences Against the Person Act 1925, as amended, states that a conviction for “common assault” can result in a $400 fine or imprisonment for two years. With none being provided in legislation, for definitions, we have to rely on case law. Locally, in Skinner v the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (2006), Justice Pemberton explained that “An assault is the threat or use of force on another that causes that person to have a reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. An assault is established once the Claimant can prove that a reasonable man, if placed in his position at the relevant time, might have feared that unlawful physical force was about to be applied to him.” Internationally, in the case of Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1969), the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom —formerly known as the House of Lords — proffered its definition as “Any act by which the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes the victim to apprehend unlawful immediate personal violence.”
Legally speaking, for wining to be considered an assault, the defendant must have forced himself upon someone who has already expressed annoyance and displeasure in the attempted gyration because if the victim does not anticipate unlawful personal violence, there is no assault. The TTPS is misleading the public with an egregious explanation of when an initially innocuous wine turns into an assault.
In addition to the fact that the definition of assault can in no way include a wine under normal circumstances, the Summary Offences Act explicitly states that a person can only be charged if a complaint is made. This means that the police can only intervene if a female masquerader makes a conscious decision to leave the band to find an officer and then return to identify this alleged winin’ criminal in a sea of similarly clad male masqueraders. The entire notion is absurd.
It defies all logic that without physical evidence proving this alleged winin’ assault, the police would be even able to arrest someone under those conditions. And therein lies the danger; have the police factored in the false or mischievous reports that may be made? Where is the safeguard against malicious reports and wrongful arrests? The danger of this enforcement only hit me when on Twitter, one user quoted the Express article on this topic and posted: “I looking to put rel (sic) man in jail this Carnival...” Whilst some may assume she posted this in jest, who is to know if this female is not dead serious?
A significant aspect of Trinbagonian culture is winin’, and every party-goer and masquerader knows this; therefore, making the decision to fete or play mas in itself is implied consent to be wined on. Notice I said wined, not grabbed and “stabbed out” like Jamaicans like to do, not groped, not molested, not sexually harassed, and definitely not cursed for refusing to wine. Men who fail to move-on after being refused by a woman, and those who engage in this perverse behaviour are the ones who deserve to be thrown in jail.
I applaud the police for wanting to protect women from “tusty” men who are hell-bent on engaging in sexual assault, but as a society, we have to avoid reacting to perceived problems without proper legal foresight.
The purported extent to which the TTPS claims this law applies is complete nonsense, and I for one would not let this hamper my Carnival vibe because to quote Kes, my Carnival motto remains the same: “Ah cya let you get away, so I coming over dey and thief a wine on yuh.”