Hinds: YouTuber’s videos used as evidence as 7 held for gang crimes

A screengrab from a YouTube video by Christopher
A screengrab from a YouTube video by Christopher "Chris Must List" Hughes on gang violence in TT. -

MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds confirmed that seven people arrested for various offences, including some under the Anti-Gang Act, were held based on evidence garnered from videos recorded and posted on social media by a YouTuber.

Hinds called TV6 to respond to a news segment in which criminologist Randy Seepersad admonished authorities after he claimed nothing was done about videos posted by Canadian YouTuber Christopher “Chris Must List” Hughes of men brandishing guns and some admitting to being members of gangs.

Hinds said one of those videos resulted in someone being charged with sedition and other videos were analysed and used for its evidential value. He then referred to an earlier report of seven people being arrested in the northeast.

Hinds said, “I can, based on information available to me, indicate that those, too, have arisen out of those videos.

“I'm further aware that investigations around those videos continue. In fact, the police are very confident that they have provided tremendous evidential value, and the matters are, as I said, under investigation, and matters are being chalked up on the court.”

Hinds added, “It is not that action has not been taken by law enforcement in relation to those videos. Active pursuit of evidence from them is well under way and in fact there are matters already charged and on their way to the court.”

Before the minister’s statement, Newsday called ASP Richard Smith in relation to reports that the videos were at the centre of investigations that resulted in the arrest of several people.

However, Smith would neither confirm nor deny whether there was a connection between the arrests and the videos. Smith said 24 people were arrested, but did not say exactly how many people were held for gang activity.

“What I can say is we held an exercise last night (June 11), and 24 people were arrested for various offences and investigations are ongoing. Some of the arrests might fall into the realm of the gang activity, but people were arrested on other offences such as robberies and shootings.”

He said the arrests came from a series of investigations, and could not confirm whether any of the people arrested were connected to or featured in any of Hughes’s videos.

“I can’t say because I only saw the videos briefly. I cannot confirm or deny whether any of the people arrested were in any of those videos at this stage.”

Hughes: Subjects knew they would be on YouTube

Contacted by Newsday, Hughes expressed surprise when asked if he was aware that people who might have featured in his YouTube videos might have been arrested for gang activity. But he said every person who was in his videos knew he was filming their actions.

“When talking on camera they’re aware,” he said. “I always encourage people when coming on a camera to wear a mask, but it’s up to them. These people decide for themselves what to do. I don’t encourage anything.

“Everybody's aware of what I do. And that's why I was allowed into the community.

"It's not like I have a hidden camera under my shirt. I'm holding a camera out. And people that are seen on my videos were well aware that I was filming and that the content would be put on YouTube.”

He doubled down on his previous statements that he had no connection with the police, and once again denied reports that he went on a tour with officers to point out the areas where he was filming.

Hughes, who was at the time preparing to go to court to face sedition charges, also took no responsibility for the arrests.

“It's not because of my video they were arrested. It's because of the activities that they participated in,” he said.

“I didn’t beg or nothing. Nothing has been secret. Everyone knew as adults what they were getting themselves involved in when they decided to choose a certain lifestyle.”

He added that while safety was always a concern when he went to another country, it was the first time he had been put in a position where his videos were involved in police investigations.

“They could blame their mom, their dad (or) they could blame me,” he said. “I didn't play any role in them being arrested.

"Maybe the criminal activity that they partake in might have something to do with it, but I mean, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. And that's up to your court system to decide if they're guilty of a crime or not. That's not up to me.”

Hughes was arrested on May 29, after being in Trinidad and Tobago for three weeks filming different aspects of local culture and lifestyles, including gang culture.

Hughes's recording equipment, computers and phones were also seized and he was later charged with sedition.

Hughes told Newsday he had uploaded 24 fully edited videos on Trinidad and Tobago life to YouTube, some of which have since gone viral.

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