11 Apr 2013

Where incompetence starts

Today I want to highlight a couple of situations where Jumbie’s First Law once more holds true… the first is from this letter to the editor.

On the morning after the mass blackout at the start of Easter weekend, I went to Curepe to purchase some breakfast. The line was extremely long at Fatboy’s doubles stand, but everyone waited patiently and there were no complaints, except for the heat of the sun.

Just as I got my order, a man came from Bobby’s Bar across the road and asked for two doubles. After initially being told by the assistant that he had to join the line, he was then given his order before others who were waiting for 30 minutes or more.

Of course this sparked righteous outrage. One young lady was waiting in line with her child and did not receive such preferential treatment. But as one person who was then refused service pointed out with obscenity, “That could only happen cuz is Bobby son!!” It meant that Bobby’s son was served preferentially because of who he was. It seems to be the same in our society gene­rally. If you have enough money and power, or if you know someone who does, then the general rule of law and order does not apply to you. It is why the ordinary citizen can receive a traffic ticket from the police, but another can simply call the name of a superior officer and drive off.

It is why a regular citizen, in trying to build or buy property, faces extreme obstacles and hurdles of procedure, but someone with enough money can just build what they want and ignore Town and Country Planning or local authorities. It is why popular persons convicted of assault can pay a small fine after five years of legal wrangling, but an equally guilty man who admitted to touching a woman inappropriately gets six months in jail instead of the counselling he obviously needs, or some other alternative.

It is why Trinidad and Tobago has reached the state of lawlessness we are in presently. There is simply no faith in a system which is so consistently bypassed at all levels by those with the means to do so. This means many of us do not feel justice is served in equal measure. I think here the law is like a spider’s web: strong enough to catch the weak, but too weak to catch the strong.

Marlon Bascombe

I have written time and time again about a two-tiered legal system existing on The Rock. Nothing ought to be surprising about this letter, and the writer ought not to be caught off-guard.

The second situation is once more very usual for the Rock… dunceys protecting their own:

According to the article by Dr Sheila Rampersad:

“What might have been an open-and-shut case against a police officer, who ploughed into six residents of Sea Lots along the Beetham Highway, Port-of-Spain, on February 24, has turned into a lengthy and muddled investigation. Three people died and three others were injured in the crash, which occurred along the westbound lane of the highway.”

Despite reports of the police duncey (who was the driver of the car) being intoxicated at the scene of the accident, usual police dunceyness resulted in:

  • a breathalyser test, which measures blood alcohol level, was administered at 2.47 pm on the day of the fatal collision, almost six hours after the incident.
  • a blood sample was taken from the off-duty policeman and sent for testing but in an untidy twist, investigators have reported that the blood sample was tested on a machine that was not properly calibrated.
  • As a result the blood sample has been spoilt.
  • residents complaining that the off-duty officer who was driving the vehicle was intoxicated. They accused police of removing a half-full bottle of alcohol from the vehicle. They also claimed that several police officers showed up after the crash and transported the driver to the hospital, but left the Sea Lots victims lying on the road awaiting ambulances.
  • the police investigator assigned to the case, acting Supt Moses Charles, had not reported the identities of the officers who turned up at the scene of the accident and transported their colleague to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
  • There are two CCTV cameras that could have captured both the collision and its aftermath. One is a police camera and the other controlled by the Ministry of Works. However, no video was captured because of technical and/or operational failures.

When contacted for comment yesterday afternoon, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said he had to go into a meeting. Calls to the cellphone of Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson went unanswered.

It is impossible (in my mind, at least) that this level of incompetence is not also coupled with malfeasance from several sources. Captain to cook, as it were.

However, I must point out that from a legal point of view, it appears that the duncey will still be criminally (and civilly) liable for the deaths of three persons and harm to three others. Whether he was intoxicated or not, factually he was driving the car that caused the damage, something which has not been disputed to date. His degree of intoxication may be relevant only as a matter of diminished responsibility but even that is highly doubtful, as once one willingly caused that state in the first place, then one should foresee the possibility of incidents arising because of drunk driving.

If D would have foreseen that possibility if sober, D is liable. It is irrelevant to D’s liability that D did not actually foresee that possibility if the lack of foresight was caused by D’s state of voluntary intoxication…

In other words, if it is proved that D committed the external element of an offence with the fault required for liability, D is guilty of the offence even though D would not have committed it if his or her inhibitions had not been reduced or his or her moral vision had not been blurred by the voluntary consumption of an intoxicant.

As to why the blood test and breathalyser were not administered, that lies in the Motor vehicle and Road Traffic Act Sections 70 (A-D), but specifically, I am suspicious of:

70C(7)  It shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence under subsection (5)(a) if the accused satisfies the Court that he was unable on medical grounds at the time he was required to do so, to undergo a breath test or to submit to a breath analysis, as the case may be.

Back to the usual incompetence of dunceys, once more this situation beggars belief. How on earth could such a low level of incompetence lie within an organisation with over 7000 members?

The answer lies with the starting point, where recruitment only requires basic intellect:

More than 1,000 people were screened yesterday in the first of four steps in selecting new members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

The potential recruits were equipped with their five Level subjects and measured for height and physical balance. The required age group was 18 to 35 years old.

There have been many reports where people who have A levels, degrees and superior qualification have been turned away at the recruitment process for being ‘over qualified’. It is why:

if you are more qualified than the person who is hiring you, you will not get hired…

People can only rise to their levels of incompetence. It is why the name “Rock” is more than a metaphor; it is really like the fantasy world of Fraggles where everyone is happy, singing and dancing and getting fat, despite the looming indicators of decay.