The Opposition UNC stands ready, prepared, able and willing to support the Government and any other agency in fighting crime.
This commitment came from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal during debate on the Indictable Offences (Pre-Trial Procedure) Bill, 2017 in Parliament on Thursday.
He reminded the House that as a fact and a matter of statistics, the People’s Partnership Government (PPG) reduced serious crime by 55% and had murders going down.
The issue of the removal of preliminary enquiries is an issue that was brought to Parliament by the PPG on two occasions.
He said the PPG had a record on this matter of confronting it when it is good and confronting it when it is bad.
“When we were there crime went down and that is a fact. Murder was going down, serious crime went down, so we are committed to taking action to remove the backlog, to deal with the delays in the criminal justice system, and that is what we are about on this side. What we are not about is joining the Government to break the law”.
Dr Moonilal said the Opposition was not about helping the Rowley-led Government rewrite the Constitution through the back door nor undermining the constitutional structure and our constitutional value.
Dr Moonilal chided National Security Minister Edmond Dillon who was quoted in the newspapers as saying that, because of the Opposition UNC, we have rampant crime and criminality. He told Dillon that not because the Opposition was not support the Government in breaking the law, men went free, criminal elements, they got bail, went into society and created havoc because the Opposition did not join you to break the law.
Dr Moonilal was very critical of the amendment which will create a situation whereby the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who advises the Police, will now be determining whether cases are sufficient to move forward or not.
Saying the DPP had the initial sufficiency hearing, having to contribute to building the case, he will be deciding whether that case is sufficient… literally himself to himself.
The former Minister of Housing and Urban Development said that the DPP’s office and the constitution were never set up for this.
The Constitution provides at Section 5 that the person being charged, accused by the police -from the time someone is accused, section 5 of the Constitution is triggered, and there is a duty under this Section that the indivudual has a right to be brought properly before an appropriate judicial authority. The DPP is not an appropriate judicial authority.
This course of action removes the constitutional protection that the accused is entitled to.
Dr Moonilal challenged the Attorney General to name one country in the Commonwealth that has done this.
Such action as contained in the proposed amendment gives the DPP the power of filtration, of filtering cases and proffering an indictment to the High Court, before the same person prosecutes the matter.
Dr Moonilal also reminded the House that in June 2014, then Opposition Leader Keith Rowley was very critical of the very measures that his Administration were now trying to have enacted as law in Trinidad and Tobago.
He quoted Dr Rowley as saying that “if the DPP is aggrieved at a decision of a magistrate with respect to discharging an accused person, the Director of Public Prosecutions may appeal to the High Court; that is in the existing law… the DPP may, if he thinks fit, refer the case back to the Magistrate with directions to deal with the case accordingly, and with such other directions as he may think proper”.
Dr Rowley termed that procedure as ‘madness’ asking how could you put in a law that the DPP could give directions to a magistrate what he thinks proper and therefore can tell the magistrate what to do.
Dr Moonilal reminded the Dr Rowley that he (Rowley) was adamant in his presentation that “the only person that the DPP can give instructions to is the police… He can give directions to the police and tell them to investigate… he cannot direct a judicial officer.”
Dr Rowley had, in 2014, accused the PPG of “clothing the DPP with these powers. The DPP can say I am overruling you and I can go back and reconsider. You are giving powers to the DPP and making the DPP a judicial officer of which you cannot give the DPP those powers”.
Dr Moonilal also citied Dr Rowley’s position in the 2011 legislation with regards to the creation of the position of Masters and a place in the legislation where a standard that the Masters had to reach. It was a prima facie case. Dr Rowley’s position then was he liked that; he was a convert to the 2011 position.
In the 2014 position now, the then Government changed that to say that when the magistrates were reviewing cases, they would do it in consideration of all the evidence.
Again, Dr Moonilal contended, Dr Rowley strenuously objected to this. Consideration of the evidence, he said, was too low. He accused the PPG of bringing poor legislation by watering down a standard from a prima facie case to in consideration of all the evidence.
Dr Moonilal asked the Prime Minister why this current piece of legislation contains no reference to a standard?
Dr Moonilal also said that the drafters of the Constitution never anticipated the prosecutor would become a judicial officer as well. They wanted to have a magistrate or the Judiciary filter these matters and the prosecutor would create his case with the police.
By conferring onto the DPP the power to sit down and determine, to proffer an indictment without a judicial officer scrutinizing the information and the evidence, before tantamount undermining the constitutional structure and by so doing, you are defeating the Constitution.
Dr Moonilal wrapped up his presentation by saying the amendments cannot work and no country in the world does something like this; apart from the constitutional issue, it is not practical.
He called on the DPP to make his voice heard as he did on the jury matter, on these proposed amendments.