Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 28th 2013 Contents A8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, August 28, 2013
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for AUGUST 27th 2013
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan s proposal
that the anti-gang law should be changed so that
suspects would have to prove they do not belong
to gangs is uncivilised, backwards, knee-jerk and
This is the view of former Attorney General Ramesh
Lawrence Maharaj and Opposition senator Fitzgerald
Hinds, who also said any amendment to the Anti-
Gang Act along these lines would not get the full
support of Parliament.
If the amendment did manage to get through Par-
liament, Maharaj said, it would be blocked by the
court under Section 13 of the Constitution, on the
grounds that it would not be deemed reasonably jus-
tifiable in a society that respects the fundamental
human rights of its people.
In the run-up to last Thursday s meeting between
the Government and the PNM, Ramlogan had said
he was canvassing opinion on changing anti-gang
legislation to shift the burden of proof onto those
arrested and accused of being gang members. He was
later reported as saying he intended to use the meeting
to discuss "reversing the burden of proof, as they did
Since Dominica currently has no anti-gang laws
and no gangs, the comment has been interpreted as
a reference to the 1974 "Dread Act." Officially the
Prohibited and Unlawful Societies Act, it targeted
Rastafarians, whom the government of the time
regarded as the main perpetrators of crime.
Contacted by the T&T Guardian to explain the ref-
erence yesterday, Ramlogan repeated his previous
statement but did not confirm whether he was referring
to the Dread Act.
But Maharaj yesterday reacted strongly to Ramlogan s
proposal, saying the Government was "trying to cover
up its incompetence and impotence to deal with crime
by taking away the rights of individual citizens."
The presumption of innocence, he said, was the
founding principle of criminal law, and shifting the
burden of proof onto an accused person would amount
to "a revolution in criminal law."
He said Ramlogan s proposal was "not only
uncivilised, it is outrageous and the most backwards
step that a government can contemplate."
Of the Dominica reference, he insisted the two sit-
uations were completely different.
The T&T Guardian contacted the current AG of
Dominica, Levi Peter, on the matter yesterday.
He said: "It would appear that you may be correct
in your assumption that AG Ramlogan is perhaps
referring to the Prohibited and Unlawful Societies
Act. I am not aware of any other gang-specific leg-
islation having been enacted in Dominica."
Hinds said there was little justification in reversing
the burden of proof in gang-related criminal cases.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow s second round of
talks between the PNM and the Government, at which
anti-gang laws will form part of the discussion, he
said he hoped Ramlogan had not adopted a fixed
position and was expressing a personal view.
Hinds expressed concern at Ramlogan s proposal,
describing it as a "knee-jerk reaction to the Govern-
ment s failed promises on crime."
"Asking a citizen to prove he is not a gangster,
when alleged by the police, could be onerous and
burdensome" for the individual involved, he said,
and asking people to prove their innocence, rather
than asking the State to prove that person s guilt
"It is not very often in criminal law that burden
of proof is reversed. This is done in very rare and
extreme circumstances, since the jurisprudence says:
who alleges should prove," Hinds said.
He cited narcotics as the main example in T&T
law in which proof of innocence falls upon the
accused, as opposed to prosecutors attempting to
establish guilt. He said in the case of drug possession
it was essential.
Hinds said in the case of anti-gang legislation,
the AG had admitted there was nothing wrong with
the law and that the real problem in enforcing it was
that police failed to gather sufficient evidence.
"What Ramlogan needs to do, rather than level
down the law, to the detriment of the general pop-
ulation, is to level up in respect of the capacity of
the police service, through his Cabinet," he said.
"It is intelligence-gathering that is at stake here."
Addressing policing methods, he said: "Police have
to spend months observing, listening, filming, building
cases against people.
"Police officers morale is not at the level it ought
to be. We need, as a society, to look at the police
organisation and give it the boost, resources, remu-
neration, that is requisite to ensure they are committed
to doing their work. Intelligence is a tough business."
Stiff opposition to AG's anti-gang plan
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