THE EDITOR: One of the primary responsibilities of a government is to protect its citizens from crime. And this can take many forms. The current administration has sought to intensify its anti-crime initiatives with legislation. The Firearms Bill 2019 is the latest addition to the Government’s anti-crime measures.
Increasing fines and amending legislation will not serve as deterrents to serious crimes. What is needed is the stimulation of the criminal justice system so both elements can work harmoniously.
The Firearms Amendment Act will be the new bail bill because the Government has not considered the other imperative factors. Look at the state of the judiciary specifically, the backlog of cases and the leadership issues.
Multiple studies found that significant increases in penalties did not have a deterrent effect. Penalties are only effective upon conviction and this is only possible if the detection rate is higher than what exists today. Both the AG and the Minister of National Security have admitted that the detection rate is at an unacceptable level.
Furthermore, we have to look at the evidence used to actually get convictions. TT has a reputation of cases being dismissed due to insufficient evidence, missing evidence, lags in gathering evidence or the police simply not showing up in court.
What about the Forensic Science Centre and its role in relation to the Firearms Bill? A firearm is used in most of the murders committed in TT. When spent shells are recovered as evidence, what is the process? They are stored somewhere and maybe in a couple years they would be for analysis.
We have a broken system and the Government should focus on fixing the administrative and infrastructural failures within the criminal justice system. We have heard of capacity reform and expansion for quite some time but nothing tangible has occurred.
ALVIN K DANIEL