17 Jun 2018

Idiocy rules

2018-06-17_17-38-31The letter to the left, to the editor of the Newsday, and printed on 12 June 2018, is quite revealing in its composition.

The writer is an idiot.

Not only does the writer ignore evidence that is readily available with a simple Google search, he makes elementary mistakes in reasoning a 5 years old child will spot.

Trinidad and Tobago has a murder solve rate of 3.65% or close. It is mainly domestic murders in which the victim and perpetrator know each other, have a history of violence between them, and is readily identifiable that are ‘solved’ by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

Don’t believe me? Go check for yourself.

So to say that “If would-be criminals know without a shadow of a doubt that they will be put to death should they murder with premeditation, most of them are less likely to kill” is not only disingenuous but downright dotish.

Simply put, the criminals know that they are ‘untouchable’ since the chance of being caught is less than 4%; a 96% chance on going free and unidentified. Conviction is 1% of that 4%.

No need to fear the death penalty if you know you can’t be caught.

The mistake the writer makes in addition to the point above, is to think that the death penalty went somewhere, by implication if not express words. That is not true. The death penalty is still the appropriate sentence for murder according to the laws of T&T.

The barriers to the death penalty of course, as I have previously stated on numerous occasions, are 1) not catching the murderers, and 2) not going through the judicial process to its finality in less than 5 years.

Sigh.. I eh able, nah. I give up.

31 May 2018

The police–a law onto themselves?

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The article on the left, taken from the Daily Express of Wednesday 30 May, 2018, is an example of where police officers are a law onto themselves. And stupid, but I’ll get to that later.

See here also: https://www.cnc3.co.tt/press-release/man-ticketed-2000-each-5-tinted-windows.

Let me deal with the second point first, highlighted in the shaded red area.

But there is no specification in the law as to what grade of tint is acceptable.  

Instead, issuing fines for vehicle tint is up to the discretion of the police officer.

Hang on… no specification in law as to what grade of tint is illegal? Either the reporter is wrong or all the police in Trinidad since Independence have been acting as judge, jury and executioner… and supported in this by the entire judiciary!

2018-05-31_08-38-02To check this, I went off to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act 1924 (no, that is not a typo). Here is what I found:

Section 23(1)(d) states “no motor vehicle the windscreen or any other window of which is fitted with class so tinted, treated or darkened as to obscure the view of the inside of the vehicle from the outside;”

Next, I turned to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Enforcement and Administration) Act 1978 CH 48:52 [http://rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt/Laws2/Alphabetical_List/lawspdfs/48.52.pdf].

2018-05-31_08-36-17

In the First Schedule, point 61 affirms this.

On the face of it, this is a subjective standard which is against the rule of law. The rule of law requires that law must be accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable (Bingham, 2010). Nothing in Section 23(1)(d) appears to be clear and predictable. Why do I say this?

Most countries have a clear standard – rated in percentage – regarding the blackness of tints.

See here: https://delightandinspire.com/2015/03/18/international-window-tinting-laws-for-cars-driving-around-the-world/

Having a clear standard, with instruments to measure this standard, is an objective test. It does not depend upon the personal view of a particular police officer at a particular time in a particular place with a particular driver and particular vehicle.

Sadly, most citizens do not have the time, legal knowledge, financial resources, or sufficient outrage to have this clear injustice settled at the superior courts, in this case the Privy Council as I fully expect the local courts to side with the dunceys.

The second point is highlighted in green in the first picture. The tickets issued do not have the offence written on them. There are two possible reasons for this:

1) Either PC Duff (see first link to CNC3 website for photo) deliberately did that so the offender would ‘get out’ of paying the fine by challenging a non-offence ticket in court, or

2) PC Duff made a duff and doesn’t know his job.

Of the two, I would not be surprised at either, but I’m voting for no. 2 as the evidence shows me time and time again that dunceys are more stupid than we give them credit for. In other words, when you think stupidity can’t get worse, it’s the dunceys who come along (for the main part) to prove it can.

By the way, how many of you noticed that Motor Vehicle Supervisor II, Dexter Drakes, didn’t/doesn’t know the law either? His quote clearly shows him rewriting the law.

27 May 2018

Stupidity has a price

The Newsday article bothered me. A lot! How the fawk can you be on the job for 3 decades and still don’t know your job? Well, a Trini duncey will explain.

A policeman, Joseph Coraspe knocked down two men who were cycling, Darren Roome and Matthew Tambie, during the State of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago in 2011. The injuries suffered by the victims were extensive and horrific.

Roome, who was thrown from his bike and dragged face down resulting in his face being disfigured, had to undergo several surgeries and will have to endure more. He suffered severe injuries to his face and spine along with a broken bones in his left leg. He also developed a cataract as a result of the trauma leading to significant deterioration of his eyesight.

Roome’s injuries and subsequent surgeries caused him to lose his external nasal structure causing him severe pain, discomfort and continuous ridicule for how he now looks.

Tambie suffered mild head injuries and multiple soft tissue injury, memory loss, headaches and weakness in the left arm. He was described as being irritable and abusive towards his mother as a result of the accident and was diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder and psychological issues.

What bothered me most was the attitude of the policeman (duncey) and his ‘excuses’. First, before you judge him less harshly, remember that this particular dunce has 30 years experience as a police officer. 30 years!

Coraspe, who testified that he was a police officer for close to 30 years, claimed he was unaware that driving without insurance was a criminal act.

In a report submitted to court, Coraspe admitted to driving at 40 miles per hour (64.4km) while the speed limit was 50 km/hr.

Coraspe said in his evidence that, after the collision, he saw the two men in a nearby drain and the severe facial injury to Roome then went home without waiting for medical assistance to arrive and he did not report the matter immediately.

“Essentially, he fled the scene because, according to him, he heard bystanders making comments about the accident and thought they would blame him. He gave no evidence that he tried to get names of potential witnesses despite the nature of the accident and injuries he observed. His conduct was inconsistent with a lack of responsibility for the accident.” Donaldson-Honeywell stated.

Hold on… after 30 years on the job, ‘upholding the law’ he still didn’t know it’s illegal to drive without insurance. He still didn’t know he must report an accident? He didn’t know he must not leave the scene of the accident? He thought he was Sherman McNicolls? Breach of these are criminal charges by the way. Sometimes, words fail me to describe the stupidity that is pandemic to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS). Stupidity has a price and in this case, the duncey has to pay US $1 million.

11 May 2018

Why law?

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It is quite common to hear expressions such as, “That is my right!”, “I have the right to [insert comment of choice here, such as ‘free speech’]”, “I have the right to privacy”, and so forth. So, to those who frequently trot out this phrase, I ask this question:

“What is a right?”

How many readers can answer that question? How many will have to turn to Google, or use a legal dictionary? Where do rights come from? Rights are such a fundamental thing; everybody has them, governments and courts must respect them, yet the percentage of people who can answer that question is very small.

As a person pursuing an LLB in law, I admit that I find law to be a fascinating subject. I also admit not everyone will. My purpose for writing this column though, is not to “teach” law to the readers of this website/column. What I hope to achieve is to provide some clarification of how the law works as related to issues that we see in the news daily. Far too often, the layman does not understand the concepts and principles behind the law, and there is a public outrage when behaviour does not conform to what we perceive as being “fair”. It’s the nonsensical opinions that are promulgated that stoke anger, racial hatred and other intolerance.

Before embarking on my law journey, I was one of the blissfully ignorant. Ignorant because I did not know, and blissful because my ignorance permitted me to expound views on matters I did not understand… much like many persons today. We see it daily in letters to the editors of newspapers, and contributions to online forums and even in complaints when we feel aggrieved. Later, in a subsequent column, I will come to the ‘invincible ignorant’, and how they differ from the ‘mere’ ignorant.

Law is evolutionary. It evolves in small increments as society sees fit. At the heart of the law lies the principles of fairness, justice, equity, and equality but also principles of punishment and deterrence for wrongdoing – to prevent harm to others. Law is a method of social control, clamping down on aberrant behaviour that bring harm to others and where harm has occurred, it punishes the perpetrator and tries to compensate the victim adequately and fairly.

Law is based around the society. The truth of this statement can be seen from the different legal systems around the world, which are influenced by culture and religion, as well as political agendas. In the following questions, I use the word ‘right’ to mean whether we think it is fair and ethical. By which/whose yardstick do we measure ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’?

Is it right to bury persons to the neck and throw stones at the head until they are dead? Is it right to throw a homosexual person off 12 storeys? Is it right to hang a person if there is a possibility that he is innocent? Is it right that the police can frame a person to satisfy crime statistics? Is it right that abortion is illegal/legal? Is it right for the Catholic Church to ban condom use while tens of thousands of deaths could be prevented by using a condom? Is it right for a man to ‘marry’ and have sex with a 12 years old girl?

To use another example, why do we need to drive at a certain speed? In the city of Birmingham where I live, which is nearly the size of Trinidad and Tobago, the speed limit is 20 mph. Practically everywhere! To get anywhere, one must leave early enough to cater for the speed limit, and traffic! Why? The answer is simple – “speed kills” was the reason provided for lowering the speed limit, which was passed without a whimper of a protest. I contrast this with what I saw when radar guns were being introduced in Trinidad and Tobago – loud protests to INCREASE the speed limit, despite the country having a motor vehicle incident death rate 43 times that of the UK. Go figure.

When we understand how the law works, we can understand the reasoning behind court judgments and recognise the logic and legal principles Judges use to arrive at their decisions. We can also understand matters of public policy, politics, arguments (not quarrels but rather units of critical thinking). We can understand the need for contracts and courts, we can understand what a crime is and why it is a crime. We can understand the need for laws and why we should obey the law, and what penalties apply if we don’t. We even understand why the penalty is what it is and whether it is fair.

When we understand how the law works, we will understand the “Pratt & Morgan” judgment, why the death penalty hasn’t ‘gone’ anywhere for the Government to ‘bring it back’, why the Anti-Gang Act will never work, why the police are a laughable lot, why the Integrity Commission is just another toothless watchdog, and why political progress in Trinidad and Tobago is a virtual impossibility. We will see that incorrect opinions are as plentiful as bamboo (aka 'donkey') grass, and critical thinking is a stranger to the political elite – Parliament. Most of all, we will understand when and how to express an opinion.

Oh, as for what is a right? I’ll leave you to work that one out.

8 May 2018

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence. It’s like the air around us. It permeates everywhere and yet is not noticeable until there is some stench on it that brings awareness of its existence. Case in point, two police officers caught on video shooting at each other from point blank range… the backdrop of which is an alleged ‘love triangle’ which deteriorated into violence.

If the police going so far to try eliminating each other, can we hope that they will protect those of the public who need protection? Hardly. Last time, I wrote about a police officer telling a friend of mine that her brother, against whom she has a protection order, must breach the order three times before the police can act, or words to that effect (wtte). I thought that was an absurd position so I went investigating the Domestic Violence Act 1999 (the Act).

The Act is quite clear. Section 20 clearly states that a person who has an Order against him (I use the masculine to mean both male and female) and knows of the Order and contravenes the Order has committed an offence. No three-strikes rule there.

Section 21 directs a police officer

 “shall respond to every complaint or report alleging domestic violence whether or not the person making the complaint or the report is the victim”.

Quite clear, no funny ‘legal’ language here. And lo and behold, no three-strikes rule here either.

Section 23 makes the duty to act even plainer:

“For the avoidance of doubt, a police officer may act in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Law Act where he has reasonable cause to believe that a person is engaging in or attempting to engage in conduct which amounts to physical violence and failure to act immediately may result in serious physical injury or death.”

Again, no three-strikes rule, only that the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe violence is a possibility. To err on the side of caution if you will…

Section 24 removes the need for applying for a warrant to arrest, expediting matters:

“Where an Order is in force and a police officer believes on reasonable grounds that a person has committed or is committing a breach of the Order he may detain and arrest that person without a warrant.”

Crikey, would you look at that? No three-strikes rule.

Schedule 1 of the Domestic Violence Act lists 49 actions, any of which – when committed by the person who is under an Order of the Court – will result in a breach of the Order. Therefore, an arrestable offence is committed. And nowhere in the First Schedule of the Domestic Violence Act, mentioning the Summary Offences Act, the Malicious Damage Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Children Act, the Sexual Offences Act, or the Criminal Justice Act is a three-strikes rule printed in law.