Culprits using the proposed Plea Bargaining system will be able to bargain against trial if they provide links to T&T’s “Big Fish” and “Mr Big,” says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Stuart Young.
Speaking during yesterday’s Parliament debate on the legislation, Young said it can also be used retroactively by those in remand custody who wouldn’t have to wait years behind bars for their matters to be heard.
Young said there is no magic pill to fix crime, but improvement of the criminal justice system via the legislation is a central element in addressing the problem.
The legislation is a particularly big part of the fight against white collar crime “...Corruption and Mr Big,” Young added.
“It’s part of the fight against the Big Fish. Below them are the small fish who’re critical to doing the crime, they frequently leave finger or ‘footprints’ so when they’re held and presented with evidence against them, they can have discussions and give up the big fish.”
“The accused can say ‘I’m willing to give up Mr Big who’s importing narcotics’. So this (legislation) is a big part of the fight against corruption: narcotics, and illegal drugs and firearms.”
Young said the legislation also allows the innocent to go free when drugs or weapons are found in cars or houses and everyone in the location— innocent and guilty—would usually be held for the crime.
He said the owner of the drugs or guns would be able to come forward, accept responsibility and have discussions with the prosecutor to seek a plea, while the others in the vehicle or house would not be prosecuted.
The legislation also allows victims—including children, businesses or entities— to give statements on emotional or other harm or financial losses the accused caused them.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who made suggestions regarding the legislation, said these could be discussed in committee stage.
T&T’s lobbyists in the US, The Group, DC LLC, has already been paid US$300,000 to date out of the US$2.4million contract price.
Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert confirmed the situation replying to Opposition questions in Parliament yesterday. Government recently confirmed the firm was hired for three years to promote T&T’s interests in the US.
Imbert said the decision to hire was taken on December 23, 2015 by the Cabinet. Procurement was sole selective process.
On terms of reference or scope of works the firm would do, Imbert said the contract is available on the US Justice Department’s website.
He repeated several times when Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal pressed for details. Imbert said if the information is publicly available, under Parliament’s regulations: “There’s no need to repeat it.”
Moonilal later called for the deputy House Speaker to write a “stern letter” to the Energy Minister (Franklin Khan) for tardiness in answering a question on the agenda which was previously deferred for two weeks and was deferred again yesterday.
Khan, however, only returned to work this week. Imbert was acting Energy Minister in his absence when the question was at issue.
Speaker Edmond Forde said the matter would be dealt with.
SOURCE: www.guardian.co.tt (Gail Alexander)