Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday told Opposition and Independent senators the Anti-Gang Bill 2018 is a “make or break” measure to help law enforcement agencies effectively curb criminal gang activity in TT.
Al-Rawi made this point during deliberations on the bill in the committee stage of the Senate. He was responding to concerns by some Opposition and Independent senators about wider powers being given to law enforcement officers under the legislation.
Opposition Senator Wade Mark questioned the method whereby a police officer could charge a person with concealing a gang leader or gang member.
Describing this as “subjectivity at its worst,” Mark claimed, “Innocent people can go down the chute.” Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC was concerned the police could be given “state of emergency” powers to treat with people considered to be gang leaders or members.
Reminding senators the bill required a three-fifths majority for passage and was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on March, Al-Rawi said it was necessary to give law enforcement, “a fighting chance against criminality which is ridiculing our society at the moment.”
The AG said examples of this can be seen in numerous videos of crimes being posted on social media.
Against this background, Al-Rawi urged the Senate to, “balance the rights in favour of law enforcement.”
Al-Rawi said had Government been able to pass the law on its own, “it would be a lot more.” He also disclosed Government would soon be bringing legislation to deal with people who threaten the lives of members of the protective services. Independent Senator David Small agreed with Al-Rawi that “tough times require tough measures.” While noting concerns about some of the bill’s provisions being draconian, Small said he would be uncomfortable if police officers knew the exact location of a gang leader but could act swiftly to arrest that person. He said police officers should be able to, “find these guys and get them off the streets.”