Jacob defends right to speak on laws: UNC can’t muzzle me

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Acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob. –

ACTING Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob says he will not silenced after United National Congress (UNC) senator Jayanti Lutchmedial criticised him for publicly suggesting ways parliamentarians could strengthen the anti-gang and bail laws.

Lutchmedial, at a news conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Port of Spain on Wednesday, said Jacob should leave legislation to those in Parliament and focus on fighting crime and doing police work.

Lutchmedial added, Jacob has failed “to demonstrate that they (the police) could use or are using the anti-gang legislation to deal with gang violence.” She said Jacob’s focus should be on ensuring the police enforce the law as all the legalisation needed to ensure citizens are safe are there.

“When you are looking at the passing of laws, you have to look at the balancing and the effect of the law and how much impact you can have on the rights of citizens. And if the TTPS are not using the law, they produce no results.”

She said legislation isn’t the issue, but the low detection and conviction rates.

In response, at a Ministry of National Security news conference on Friday, Jacob dismissed Lutchmedial’s comments.

He said the recommendations were made based on police data, and trends and patterns seen by the police.

“They can take it into consideration if they want. So to say that the commissioner of police should not speak…The commissioner of police has the right to comment on such issues and I will continue doing so.”

He reiterated, “I am the acting Commissioner of Police, and policing in itself doesn’t just fall alone in a corner. It is a part of the criminal justice system. Coming from it, there are the basic roles that exist in the criminal justice system and criminology. What we are looking at is the deterrence.”

He believes his suggestions could further deter criminals, especially repeat offenders, from crime.

Some of the recommendations made to strengthen the Anti-Gang Act were the denial of bail for 120 days for people over 18 charged for offences under the act, and amendment of the first schedule to include fraud offences to adequately target white-collar crimes.

He also called for amendment of the first schedule to include firearms-trafficking offences, robbery and burglary offences, and tax evasion.

Additionally, Jacob felt an increase of the detention period to 72 hours as opposed to 48, as in the 2018 act, and making all offences under Section 5 indictable, would significantly improve police investigations.

But even with his reasoning, Lutchmedial still feels the commissioner should focus on what he was appointed to do. She told Newsday on Friday afternoon, the Opposition was offended by the way he responded to their advice to him.

She said Jacob took the statements out of context.

“If the best he could do is describe people who voice their opinion in that way, then I don’t think he’s fit to hold the office he is occupying. He is setting a bad example.

“His operational plans and showing of any statistical proof, he hasn’t been able to successfully operationalise the legislation that exist to the benefit of the citizens. Legislation alone cannot tackle crime. And if you have certain powers and you cannot use them, then continually blaming the absence of legislation will not do.”

Also at Friday’s news conference, Jacob and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds also urged the Judiciary to be sterner in the way it deals with people charged with certain crimes to maintain the strength of existing legislation.

Even with the weight of the Bail Amendment Act, Jacob said, perpetrators opt to plead guilty because of the manageable fines.

The amended bill was passed on August 2019 and expires on August 4. Hinds said Cabinet approved to have the bill taken back to Parliament to be extended.

It will need the support of the Opposition for it to be passed.

Jacob said, “Out of 150 charges within the year, we notice that 50 of the matters that were completed, in most instances, persons pleaded guilty.

From the 50 cases, 11 of them faced imprisonment.

Jacob said when it came to fines and sentences, the judiciary has been lenient.

“When we get to that part, we notice the fines and sentencing were very low. For firearm offences, there was an average fine of between $8,000 to $9,000.”

Lutchmedial said, at this point the Opposition cannot say whether or not it will support legislation it is yet to see.

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