CCJ judge: Crime solutions must be implemented

CCJ judge Winston Anderson -
CCJ judge Winston Anderson -

CRIME probably tops the list of perennial issues that almost everyone wants solved, and many have ideas on how to do it.

For Caribbean Court of Justice judge Winston Anderson, the answers are already common knowledge, which begs the question – why are they not being implemented?

This was his position during an almost three-hour-long event at UWI, St Augustine, titled: Simulating Solutions: Combating Crime and Criminality in TT on March 21.

Anderson was on the panel of experts and was carded to speak in detail about the October 2023 Needham's Point Declaration, an agreement by regional countries that proposes ways to combat crime as a public health emergency.

However, he chose to defer this contribution to point out something many may have been thinking. He said he would not go through the declarations or solutions one by one, because most people in this room, he suggested, "are very familiar, not with the declaration so much, but with what needs to be done.

"People know exactly what needs to be done, and yet we are living in a situation which is intolerable, in which our people can't go to work or stay in their homes in peace, in which we are faced with fear whenever we go out into society."

In offering solutions, some of which are listed in the declaration, Anderson said the government needs to take accountability for the proliferation of crime. "What is happening is a result of the failure of the state, and the state is failing in many ways, in many areas – the police, the prosecution, the judges – and therefore the question arise(s): if persons are failing in all of these areas, then where is the accountability?

"There has to be – and I'm not suggesting any particular road to culpability – but there has to be a way of saying, 'You are overseeing this aspect of our criminal justice system. It is not working... and therefore what are the remedies that are available?'

"So I believe accountability is something that's important and I believe that it's something we have to address."

Host of the event, the head of UWI's political sciences and international relations department, Dr Indira Rampersad, shared a similar sentiment. She said over the years, the Faculty of Social Sciences' criminology department had been working with several international agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the UN on research, but the findings were not implemented.

"Volumes have been published online...the solutions have been there over time." She admitted the constraints of resources and international co-operation, however, despite the prevalence of the research, implementation is found lacking. "It seems we're not getting something right and also the problem is escalating."

While not ascribing blame, Rampersad said there is also room for future research on whether the influx of Venezuelan migrants is contributing in any way to the levels of crime.

The other panellists included Law Association president Lynette Seebaran-Suite, Cpl Zaheer Ali of the Special Investigations Unit, Chief Public Defender Hasine Shaikh, TT Unified Teachers Association president Martin Lum Kin, and UN Development Programme resident representative Ugo Blanco.

Blanco's solutions to crime were increased education, better employment opportunities and improved social cohesion. Shaikh suggested introducing categories of murder that can help clear the backlog by allowing people to enter pleas faster.

With an average of 25 women killed annually, Seebaran-Suite suggested women be able to trigger court action for breaches of protection orders. Lum Kin called for a radical curriculum reform to introduce technical-vocational elements from as early as primary school. He also called for parents to be held responsible for their children's behaviour.

Cpl Ali called for the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act to be fully proclaimed, to give police more teeth to tackle crime. In the audience was Criminal Bar Association president Israel Khan, SC, who suggested a state of emergency to seize all illegal weapons in the country and a gun court to expedite these cases.


"CCJ judge: Crime solutions must be implemented"

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