12 gang suspects freed
By Nalinee Seelal Tuesday, August 20 2013
Twelve suspected gang leaders have been released from custody following moves by their lawyers to take action against the police for their detention.
The 12 men, in their mid-20s and 30s, were held by officers of the Criminal Intelligence and Gang Unit last Wednesday following the shooting deaths of six persons, including three teenagers, in East Port-of-Spain.
Attorneys for 11 suspects sent letters to the police calling for their clients to be released or writs against their detention would be filed with the courts. The 11 were released on Sunday, but one man was detained a while longer at Belmont Police Station.
The detainee’s lawyer, Criston Williams, filed a writ of habeas corpus before Justice David Harris in the Port-of-Spain High Court at about 9.15 pm, on Sunday, seeking to have him released from police custody. The judge granted Williams’ application and his client was freed.
On his legal action, Williams told Newsday, “I then served the writ on the Commissioner of Police which was received by the sentry at the Police Administration Building late Sunday night and I also served officers of the Belmont Police Station which resulted in my client being freed at about 6.30 am yesterday.”
Newsday also contacted Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard who said he met with the police on Sunday night at about 7.30 pm over one of the detainees and gave certain instructions and advice.
The 12 men were picked up under the anti-gang legislation which gives police the authority to detain persons suspected to be involved in gangs for up to three months. They were identified as persons being involved in a series of gang activities in East Port-of-Spain, Laventille and Beetham. However, the detainees were able to contact their attorneys through relatives which resulted in the legal letters being sent to the police.
Police sources said yesterday since the detention of the 12 men, no murders took place in East Port-of-Spain. The men were interrogated between Thursday and Saturday by officers of the Criminal Intelligence and Gang Unit, photographed and information was gathered about them.
However, none of the men were willing to cooperate with officers and denied they were involved in any gang or criminal activities.
Senior police officers yesterday said they faced legal barriers which hampered their ability to deal with gang leaders in hot spot crime areas.
The 12 men were still in custody at the time police arrested 90 persons early on Sunday during a massive exercise in East Port-of-Spain. The exercise, conducted by 300 police officers and 100 soldiers, was led by ACP Crime Glen Hackett, Snr Supt Wayne Boyd, acting ASP Ajith Persad and included Inspector Harvey Jawahir and Sahadeo Singh.
Police Public Information officer Sgt Wayne Mystar yesterday said some of the 90 persons were released pending further investigations. However, others were charged on outstanding warrants, and for such offences as robberies and possession of narcotics.
Some persons were placed on identification parades yesterday for various crimes. Mystar did not disclose how many were released and how many were charged.
However three persons held in the police lockdown appeared before Port-of-Spain Magistrate Debbie Ann Bassaw yesterday for possession of marijuana.
Merlin Roberts, Ria Durity and Alan Villafana had in their possession five grammes, one gramme and 17 grammes of marijuana, respectively, on Sunday. Roberts, of Nelson Street, was placed on a two-year bond to keep the peace which if he breaks, he would be fined $200.
Durity, of Long Circular, was in a car in east Port-of-Spain when she was stopped by police and the marijuana was found in her possession. She was fined $500 or 30 days imprisonment suspended upon the completion of 80 hours community service.
Villafana, of Beetham, was fined $700 suspended upon completion of 100 hours of community service, in default of which he faces six months imprisonment.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson said yesterday even if persons who were detained on Sunday were released the police will continue to monitor their movements and if they are found to be involved in any criminal activities they will be brought to justice.