|Cops can arrest without charge |
By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, August 23 2011
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Top brass: Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj addresses a press conference as Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, from left,...
ANY CITIZEN who is arrested can be detained by the police without charge for at least 24 hours, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan advised yesterday as the police took up extraordinary stop and search powers under emergency orders relating to six local government corporations.
However, Ramlogan also advised that actual detention without charge may be substantially longer if the police and Defence Force arrest persons under the provisions of anti-gang legislation which allows police to detain persons tied to gang-related activity for 72 hours.
Under the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, which were published yesterday, police may stop and search persons on the street and enter premises without warrants.
“Any citizen who is arrested can be detained for up to 24 hours,” Ramlogan said at a press-briefing yesterday at the Ministry of National Security, Temple Court, Port-of-Spain. Thereafter, he noted, the police may detain a person without charge for seven days with the permission of a magistrate or a senior-ranked police officer.
Ramlogan noted that there is no bail for persons arrested under the emergency orders.
“The question of bail does not arise,” he said.
The police, under Section 10 of the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, have the power to “stop and search any person whom he finds in any street or other public place” who is reasonably suspected of “being in possession of firearms” or posing a threat to “public safety or order”.
Officers may seize any contraband item in relation to the above threats for as long as necessary.
Similarly, officers may enter premises without warrant to deal with potential threats.
Where a female is searched under police powers, the search must be conducted by another female.
Under the terms of the regulations, persons must also immediately comply with requests from police officers in uniform to stop their vehicles. Members of the Defence Force also have the powers of the police.
In addition to bolstered police powers, the Minister of National Security has the power to issue detention orders to any person who may act in a manner “prejudicial to public safety or public order or the defence of Trinidad and Tobago.”
According to Section 3 of the Second Schedule of the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, “any person in respect of whom a detention order is in force may be arrested without warrant by any police officer and may be detained in such place and under such conditions as the minister may from time to time direct.”
The Detention Tribunal, led by the Chief Justice Ivor Archie, is the body that handles appeals to detention orders. Ramlogan, Minister of National Security Brigadier John Sandy, Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and Archie yesterday met at 2 pm at the Hall of Justice, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain in order to have the special tribunal established. Questioned on concerns over potential abuse from the police and the Defence Force, Ramlogan said reports of the brutality of criminals have, over the years, far outweighed reports against officers. “There have been far more allegations of criminal brutality that outweigh allegations of police brutality,” he said.
At yesterday’s press briefing, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj yesterday assured that the Defence Force, “comprises a membership that is highly professional and highly motivated.”
“I want to assure that these are highly professional soldiers,” he said.
Ramlogan said citizens’ rights are not suspended during a State of Emergency, but rather the police’s powers are bolstered.
“It is not that your Constitutional rights are suspended,” he said.
Under the regulations, any person who suffers loss or damages under the emergency orders is entitled to compensation from the Office of the President at the discretion of the President.