20 Feb 2018

When tongue runs before brain

Fix hanging law to deal with killers

FORTY-TWO condemned prisoners on Death Row and 12 of them cannot be hanged because of Pratt and Morgan rulings, and those numbers will increase surely as night follows day so long as we continue to rely on external decisions to do what our laws already sanction.

What are the rudiments of a Pratt and Morgan ruling?

Tell us again, average citizens, Mr Attorney General, especially the relatives and friends of murder victims, what is the logic behind this no-hanging- after-five-years ruling?

Do we (T& T laws) request/ permit the foreign architects of this decree to make every microscopic assessment the minute we place matters in their hands?

After the police and the prosecution have gone through the rigours of investigation, evidence gathering and then in court face the legal intricacies and ambiguousness of defence attorneys and still persist to find those charged with this evil offence, guilty, are the guilty now 'less-guilty', not because new evidence has come to the fore, but purely by 'legal impediments' brought on by those who have the resources to 'buy time' by proficiently stretching our legal solidity to the limit?

And tell us, Mr AG, after the first appellant's

success in this foreign appeal process, does it now mean all condemned persons who arrive at this point of the process are guaranteed success?

Are our foreign decision- makers aware of the distressing continuation of our yearly murder toll over the last 20 years relative to our small population?

Have they themselves ever had to deal with a comparable murderous situation in their land?

If no, is it because their justice system is efficient and effective more so when it comes to dealing with crimes of this nature?

And if at some point in time such a daunting state of affairs did come upon them, would they remain bonded to this outrageous Pratt and Morgan decree or would they amend their laws to deal with the situation?

Are criminals particularly conscious of the present state of our criminal justice system and therefore carry out their nefarious acts with a laid-back mind-set?

Our Attorney General is quoted as saying the only mechanism the State could be involved in is to make sure the appellate process is quickened from the State's end.

And since the ruling political party is in charge of State affairs and the

Opposition is to monitor the ruling party's handling of the same and to agree or disagree to major changes, are the welfare of citizens at the mercy of two groups of perpetual nonconformists?

Since both leaders are forever whining (more so when they are in Opposition) that something needs to be done about the murder rate, tell us Mr Prime Minister and Madam Opposition Leader, exactly what is hindering collaboration between your two parties?

Don't your two bodies at any point in time agree to a practical course in favour of law-abiding citizens?

Is it then a fact that political parties don't give a damn about the vulnerability of the lives of citizens but their chief objective is about staying in power or replacing those who are already there?

Does that explain the hypocrisy of politicians when they attend the funerals of murder victims and display glum faces?

Or is the hypocrisy worth it? Who or what is creating hurdles/ delays in our appellate process?

Lloyd Ragoo Chaguanas

In response to a letter by Lloyd Ragoo published today (20/02/2018) in the Daily Express, I will attempt to answer some of the questions he asked.

“What are the rudiments of a Pratt and Morgan ruling? … What is the logic behind this no hanging after five years ruling?”

Well Lloyd, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC) in its wisdom and following the law, ruled that keeping a man on death row with a death sentence hanging over his head – and repeatedly reading out that final notice to him – would amount to cruel and unusual punishment (CUP). Since the Constitution forbids CUP, which is also forbidden under the most fundamental human rights and embedded in treaties which Trinidad and Tobago has signed up to, it means that it is now the law of the country that no hanging can take place after five years on death row.

This does not mean that hanging cannot take place – it merely means that the judicial process needs to take place and be completed within five years. So, it is rather disingenuous of Mr Ragoo to blame the “foreign architects” (PC judges) for the incompetence demonstrated by successive governments. It is incumbent upon the government to put into place a working system to speed up and streamline this judicial process. Therefore, the Attorney General is correct – the only mechanism the state could be involved in is to make sure the appellate process is quickened.

The rest of the questions in the article are meaningless, as they are mere rhetoric without substance. What would be more meaningful to ask is when the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) will raise the level of performance to international standards, when the detection rate for murders will rise above 6%, and the police will gather sufficient irrefutable evidence and process it to permit convictions above 1% (of the detection rate, mind you). What would be more meaningful to ask is when would legislation be passed to speed up the judicial process, so that final appeal will be completed before the five-year limitation.

What would serve Mr Ragoo well would be to read the Pratt and Morgan judgment, analyse what the judges said, look behind what is said for the reasons, and to learn to separate the chaff (rhetoric and emotive diatribes) from the wheat (substance). I suspect that this will never happen. Far often, it is easier to jump on the bandwagon and regurgitate meaningless rubbish.