Two criminal defence attorneys who defended alleged gang members in the past believe that the Anti-Gang Bill was of no value.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday, Wayne Sturge, a former UNC senator, said the main issue with the law was that it needed proper policing, which was lacking.
“For that legislation to work, you needed someone inside the gang to turn state witness or for a police officer to infiltrate the gang or have someone who can give expert opinion on gang culture. The law was useless. It was being used a panacea to solve gang-related offences and it had little impact.”
Alexia Romero said the law as it was, ate away at the constitutional rights of citizens and stymied the powers of magistrates and judges as they could no longer consider granting bail to accused.
“This was a waste of time and money and it was not only the police to blame. When putting together legislation there must be a thought process and that must include successful prosecution. It is not only about arresting people, the police may have intelligence but that can’t be brought to court.”
In response to Sturge’s comments, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said it was a “cop out” since the law affected the number of gang-related murders that took place between last year and this year.
“Many people could not operate and that was the value of the law. There was not one argument that the police abused their authority. The law was to prevent organised crime. I challenge anyone to show me another law that prevent criminal minds from coming together to execute their crimes. No other law is designed that way, it was to reduce crime because now the gangs had to operate in silos and it was easier to take them down.”
He added that the value of the law will not be seen in the number of convictions but is shown in the reduction in gangs and gang members.
Griffith said the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit will continue to operate gathering intelligence even though they are not allowed to make any arrests.
Sturge questioned the number of arrests and convictions under the law since it came into effect in 2011.
The anti-gang law will become null and void at the end of the month as a 30-month sunset clause ends this month. The Opposition on Friday did not support the Government's attempt to extend its life. The bill failed at the committee stage with a vote of 20 for and 19 abstaining. The law needed a three-fifths majority to pass which meant at least four Opposition MPs needed to support the bill.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister said if the Opposition did not see the need for police to monitor, arrest and charge people for being involved in gang activity then “that is how the country is.”
He added: “Unfortunately the group that I lead did not have the votes to continue that law. There are other people in the Parliament that do not believe that the law is necessary. We disagree, very strongly and that is the outcome.”