CoP: Private parties in private spaces allowed but not condoned

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith at a press briefing at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith at a press briefing at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

POLICE COMMISSIONER Gary Griffith, in defending what some have called a double standard in policing, on Wednesday said free private parties on private compounds are allowed.

Griffith at the time was responding to questions relating to a pool party at Bayside Towers, Cocorite, where police were called in after a tenant believed that party goers were breaching the public health regulations.

Griffith, during his weekly media briefing held at the Police Administration Building, argued that the area, where the group of roughly 20 people were recorded drinking, dancing and waddling in and near a pool, could not be considered a public place as it fell within a private housing community with the pool area being a common area. He advised that the public not interpret his words to mean that private parties at private residences are being condoned, saying that the country “should not go down that road.”

“If people are trying to abuse the position that the police would be placed in, it is going to defeat all that the good that is being done by the laws. You can't have a private property where you have a cover charge, it now becomes a public place. So you can't have an open house where you have alcohol being sold, consumed and the level of the noise, person paying a cover charge, it no longer becomes a private property because you're actually charging members of the public to enter. If you have your private party where you have invited individuals, it can make it difficult.

“I do not want this to be used as an opportunity for individuals, for persons to say ah-ha! So that is what we can do. This is where common sense and maturity needs to step in for persons to understand the bigger picture, you will get to have your zesser party soon enough.”

Griffith said the Bayside Towers event is still being investigated adding that his officers let the party patrons go with a warning, in keeping with how the police have treated several other instances in the past.

Also addressing the issue was Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who, at his ministry's media briefing on Wednesday morning said he spoke with both Griffith and National Security Minister Stuart Young on the issue.

“I think the regulations more or less speak to public spaces. But over and beyond that I have been imploring, sometimes literally begging people, not to host these types of events in your private properties. We don't need a constitutional argument to tell people that how you conduct yourselves in your private premises will capsize the whole thing. Do we need to go that (legislative) route? Do we really need to do that? In the face of all the evidence that is all there"

He said he will have to talk to the Attorney General to see if it is possible (for legislation) as the right to privacy is enshrined in the Constitution and questioned whether Government will now have to go into people's private homes and tell them how to behave.

"People have to work with us (and) to understand we have to live with the virus and change our lives to suit."

The regulation

Section 3 (1) of the public health regulations states that anyone found at any public place where– (i) the number of persons gathered at any time exceeds five; (ii) the gathering is not associated with a service specified in sub regulation (2); (iii) participate in any sport or team sports which involves more than five persons; (c) be found at or in any beach, river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water unless the presence of that person is essential for the carrying out or provision of a service specified in sub regulation (2), commits an offence that is punishable with $50,000 fine or a six month jail term.


"CoP: Private parties in private spaces allowed but not condoned"

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