National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, left, chats with Deputy Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob after the National Security media conference at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain office yesterday.

A full and comprehensive audit is to be done into the process used by the T&T Police Service (TTPS) to issue firearms dating back decades.

As this is being done, the Firearms Registry will remain virtually closed. However, the holders of Firearm User Licenses (FUL) have been placed on notice that they can be rescinded if any wrongdoing is unearthed.

The six-member team, which will comprise three retired police officers and three serving officers, has been given three months in which to complete the audit and present their findings to the National Security Council, which is chaired by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

The TTPS is currently consulting with ACP Wellington Virgil, ACP Raymond Craig and Inspector Leonard Charles, all retired, while the other three officers are yet to be identified.

Speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry of National Security in Port-of-Spain yesterday, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds outlined the background against which this decision was taken as he noted there was “public disquiet about the issues of licensing of firearms.”

“Complaints were coming to Ministers of Government, to the chairman of the National Security Council, complaints on the television, general disquiet…sufficient enough for the National Security Council to have asked two then recently-retired senior operatives of the national security platform…retired ACP Barrington and retired Chief of Defence Staff Pritchard…the National Security Council asked both these well suited patriotic individuals to go out there and engage in a fact-finding exercise so that it will assist the National Security Council in determining whether the public disquiet was founded in reality or whether it was founded in emotionalism and Trinidadian small talk.”

Following the slew of complaints, Hinds said Pritchard and Barrington had presented a report to Rowley as head of the National Security Council

He said the National Security Council, “felt that there was sufficient in this report to have shared it with the Police Service Commission (PSC), which at that time was in the process of determining who would be the next Police Commissioner.”

This, Hinds claimed, had led the PSC to “consider what was in front of them sufficiently grave and sufficiently important to itself (PSC), to ask retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John to represent it (the PSC) and for John to conduct an investigation.”

Saying that John had examined records and interviewed persons in the TTPS, as well as members of the public as part of the exercise, Hinds said John’s report was handed to the PSC as requested, as they “contemplated issues around personnel.”

“But Mr John found that in his investigation and his report, that there were issues that directly impacted the business of the national security of T&T sufficiently, so that he shared that report with the chairman of the National Security Council.”

The minister said the audit would provide a snapshot, “to see exactly where we are, how many licensed firearms are out there, how many variations, who has them, for what purposes, how much ammunition…these are matters that will be revealed in the audit.”

Seated alongside Hinds was Deputy Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob, who confirmed that the TTPS was also conducting a criminal investigation as it relates to the firearms within the country.

Following the information contained in John’s report, DCP Jacob said it was decided that a thorough audit be done into the Firearms Section so they would know what exactly has been going on in that division.

Pressed to say if current FUL holders could find their FULs being rescinded, Jacob said, “Definitely.”

He said Section 22 of the Firearms Act was clear on the aspect of recall as it related to firearms.

Additionally, he stressed, “If someone violates the use of that firearm as required, the firearm can also be seized by the police.”

DCP Jacob said there have always been positive and negative issues coming out of the Firearms Section and the speed with which some applications had been granted, which would now form part of the audit.