United National Congress (UNC) senator Jayanti Lutchmedial says no one is trying to muzzle acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob, but regardless of his political allegiance, he cannot compromise the independence of his office.
On Saturday in a press release, Lutchmedial responded to Jacob’s comments at a Ministry of National Security news conference on Friday. There, he said he would not be silenced after Lutchmedial said he should leave legislation to parliamentarians and instead focus on police work and fighting crime when he suggested ways the anti-gang and bail laws could be strengthened.
He said policing was part of the criminal justice system so he had a right to comment on legislative issues and would continue to do so.
In Saturday’s release Lutchmedial said, “Perhaps the Commissioner got carried away by the usual political rhetoric and meaningless hype of the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, whose company he seems to gleefully enjoy, but to suggest that I am trying to muzzle him is ridiculous and laughable.
“No one is trying to muzzle Mr Jacob. In fact, we have been calling upon him to speak on pertinent issues which fall under his remit.”
She said Jacob “descended into the political arena” and brought the independent office of the CoP into disrepute.
She added that he was a failure as CoP, had destroyed the public’s confidence in the police, which was on the rise under former CoP Gary Griffith, and was ignoring that crime was on the rise while trying to convince the public that crime was under control.
“People feel as though they are sitting ducks and helplessly look on while murders, home invasions and serious crime are the order of the day whilst the Commissioner is a prop for an even bigger failure by the name of Fitzgerald Hinds.
“The government is in charge of the legislative agenda for Parliament. It is therefore the government’s responsibility to execute its parliamentary duties and the Opposition to play its role in that process.”
One of Jacob’s recommendations to strengthen the Anti-Gang Act was the denial of bail for 120 days for people over 18 charged for offences under the act.
Lutchmedial called the suggestion “ridiculous” as a recent ruling of the Court of Appeal said it was unconstitutional and illegal for Parliament to deny bail. Also, in Akili Charles v AG, Chief Justice Ivor Archie ruled it would be wrong for Parliament to usurp the role and function of the courts and decide whether bail should be granted to a defendant.
“As an attorney, permit me to make my position clear: The Government’s proposal to deny people bail is illegal and hence cannot be supported. This is the law as it stands and any attempt by the Parliament to deny bail is a violation of the separation of powers.
“It is therefore painful to see McDonald Jacob sacrifice his independence by reducing himself to being a chorus boy for the Hinds’ political choir when he should know better. His support for a proposal that is unconstitutional and doomed to fail is reckless and irresponsible. He is carted out by Hinds to advertise an initiative they intend to bring and does so without any regard to its merits.”
She said fighting crime by denying people their rights was a foolish idea. Instead, she suggested Jacob speak out against the lack of a functioning DNA lab and a proper system for electronic monitoring. Or to improve the infrastructure in the Magistrates’ Courts, to tackle the backlog in the criminal courts by increasing the compliment of staff in the DPP’s office and giving the police the resources they need.
“The low rate of detection and conviction coupled with no real and meaningful attempt to tackle recidivism through rehabilitation is what is responsible for the crime rate – NOT BAIL.”
Some of the issues Lutchmedial reminded Jacob of and encouraged him to speak out on included:
1. The 2019 special branch report into the activities of minister Foster Cummings, including allegations of the illegal occupation of land, obtaining state contracts through political influence and gang affiliations;
2. An interview in the Trinidad Guardian where a citizen seeking asylum says a gang leader with links to a government minister wants to kill him;
3. The sale of former AG Faris Al-Rawi’s Porsche Cayenne luxury SUV to his friend Roger Kawalsingh without transferring the legal registration at the licensing authority;
4. The “political conspiracy” to remove former commissioner of police Gary Griffith involving Bliss Seepersad, and the "infamous" meeting between the Prime Minister and the President;
5. The investigation into the cash payment towards Minister Camille Robinson Regis’ mortgage;
6. The alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice by former AG Al-Rawi interference with police investigations into former head of Police Service’s legal unit Christian Chandler and Paula Gopee-Scoon’s son Adrian Scoon;
7. The Judith Jones report concerning the sexual abuse of children at state facilities;
8. The “conspiracy” between Al-Rawi and Vincent Nelson QC with respect to the indemnity agreement which the DPP said he had no knowledge of;
9. The sexual harassment matter involving former minister Darryl Smith;
10. Corruption in the grant of firearm user's licences based on the Stanley John report.