ONE criminal was linked to some 47 murders in Trinidad and Tobago and if the Bail Bill was in effect these killings could have been prevented, says Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
He said murderers are laughing at the police because they know that even if they are held with illegal firearms they can get out on bail.
‘The most powerful example is one individual who has been involved in 47 murders. This individual has been held with firearms on several occasion and every one he was given bail, so if such a Bill had been implemented it meant that at least 45 lives could have been saved right there from that one individual, and there are several of them,’ he said.
Griffith, in a telephone interview with the Express, said after the second or third murder the individual was arrested for having an illegal firearm but released on bail shortly after.
That person was killed in a gang activity.
‘We have several of them who we have targeted as being involved in killing 20 to 30-odd persons,’ said Griffith as he lamented that these people when apprehended with illegal guns are also released on bail.
Griffith said the Bail (Amendment) Bill was effective when he was National Security minister under the former People’s Partnership government and it could help the people treat with the homicides once again.
Griffith noted that the police have been going after some 50 active shooters in the country.
‘Every time we go after them they are virtually laughing at us because they know they’re getting bail. They have no problem being held with a firearm because they know they will get bail the following day. They prefer to be held with a firearm than not to have one because that is what they need for their trade and for protection. A Bill like this will stop the criminals from having the upper hand and give the law-abiding citizens an upper hand. We need to start focusing on the rights of the law-abiding citizens than the rights of criminals,’ he said.
Asked why the police do not charge these shooters with murder, Griffith explained that it is not that simple and it is in fact a difficult task.
‘When there is a drive-by shooting, when somebody is being killed two o’clock in the morning in a side alley, there is very little if anything the police could have done to stop it. It is also very difficult for the police to ascertain any type of evidence to be able to pinpoint the perpetrator, because when it is you have a drive-by there is no crime scene investigation on the spot to do proper investigation,’ he said.
He added that witnesses and informants do not give information to the police because they know that the criminal will come out on bail.
The Bill, he said, will give the police time – up to 120 days (the time period for no bail) – to gather evidence and allow informants to come forward. He said the legislation will also give the police a ‘pre-emptive strike’ where they prevent the criminals from committing murders.
Griffith noted that internationally, if a person has all intentions of causing a terrorist activity, they are deemed and treated as a terrorist.
He said murderers in T&T have to be treated the same.
‘Why don’t we look at it in the same measure here whereby the person does not need to kill someone to be deemed dangerous and an enemy of the State. If someone has a side arm in his pocket it means he has the capability to kill at least 13 persons… Likewise, if he has a semi-automatic rifle he can kill 30-plus persons in three seconds.
‘We have seen the damage done in schools, in communities, in churches in North America by persons with semi-automatic rifles, likewise if someone in Trinidad and Tobago is caught with an illegal weapon you don’t wait until that person has committed the act for us to start taking serious measures,’ said Griffith.
The Bill will be debated today at an emergency sitting of the Parliament.
It requires a three-fifths majority vote for passage and therefore the votes of the Opposition are needed.
Contacted yesterday, United National Congress (UNC) chief whip David Lee said the ball is in the court of the Government and the Attorney General to accept the amendments put forward by the Opposition.
‘We have amendments that we would like to put forward just to strengthen the Bill, it will not erode the Bill. We hope the AG and the Government listen to the Opposition and we also hope that they are not going to be combative, because at the end of the day it is about protecting citizens,’ said Lee.
(Trinidad Express Report )