ID parades at KFC
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, October 11 2013
PERSONS suspected of crime can be formally fingered out by State witnesses on the spot, even while standing up in line at fast food restaurants such as KFC, according to proposals announced by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday.
Among the legislative proposals which Government intends to take to ongoing Government and Opposition anti-crime talks is also a proposal for a, “one strike and you’re out”, system which will see persons with criminal convictions in violent and gang offences denied bail upon any second charge.
Ramlogan told reporters at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that Cabinet has approved possible amendment to law to bring greater protection of State witnesses by ushering long- mooted measures such as screens in courtrooms and pre-recorded video-tape testimony by ‘sensitive’ witnesses. The UNC senator also said that Government last month renewed its call to the Opposition for support for the resumption of hangings by way of an amendment to the Constitution.
Ramlogan said the State proposes to reduce the burden on eye-witnesses by reforming the procedure by which a formal identification of a suspect is made. Currently, some witnesses are too afraid to walk into police stations for ID parades.
“In terms of identification of suspects, we are going to reform that procedure,” Ramlogan said. “Too many cases are lost in the court...when the police officers muck up or make a mistake on the ID parade.” He said the proposal is for video identification, identification via photographs as well as in a public place, methods which he said already exist in other countries.
“It is time that we provide alternative methods because citizens are sometimes wary of going into the police station having to confront the person and point them out face to face,” Ramlogan said. “That will perhaps encourage persons to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.”
As an example of how the proposal might work, Ramlogan said a suspect could even be identified in a public place such as on the premises of a popular fast food chain.
“An officer would invite the person to sit down in KFC and you happen to be standing up outside or you walk in to buy a snack-box yourself,” the Attorney General said. “That would be a form of visible identification of the suspect. These things are very important now to modernise and revolutionise the identification process as an integral and important link in the administration of criminal justice.” He said a form of corroboration would have to be stipulated. Another proposal meant to protect witnesses would involve special screens in court.
“We would provide for them to give their evidence via live video-link, pre-recorded video testimony or alternatively have special courts with protective screens that are one-way so that the witness cannot be seen by the accused and the witness can be cross-examined and give the evidence-in-chief without being physically exposed to the defendant and persons who may sit in the public gallery and who may be members of the gang to which the defendant belongs or indeed of which the defendant himself leads.”
These measures would apply to children or disabled persons or witnesses who have reason to fear harm or reprisal. Ramlogan also said the Government proposes to expand the class of offences for which a repeat offender will be denied bail.
“The three strikes and the two strikes rules have not proven to be as effective as one would have liked. By the time the police get around to securing the first conviction and then arresting a second time to get a second conviction so that the denial of bail can be triggered, it is oftentimes too late for many an innocent citizen who would have lost their lives or been maimed at the hands of the bandit. So we propose a one strike and you are out.” Ramlogan said the measure would apply to gun and gang-related offences.
“The people we are trying to target is the hardened criminal who is bent on leading a life of crime. It really targets the violent criminal offences, the gun offences and the gang-related crime,” he said. Asked if the measure might place pressure on the nation’s jails, he said the measure, “That ought to act as a very effective deterrent.”