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Former AG urges tougher penalties for violent criminals

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first_imgCrime fighting strategy– advises Govt to recruit, utilise UG law students for prosecutionPutting tougher penalties in place for violent criminals and burglars, strengthening policies for granting bail for such offences, and recruiting University of Guyana-trained law graduates for employment with the state are some of several measures being proposed to combat crime.These proposals were made by Attorney General Anil Nandlall who, in his recent writings, noted that the former Government had implemented many security reforms and had started to implement some of these very propositions. In the absence of any new, coherent security strategy being rolled out, Nandlall urges these measures be considered.“There is a need for immediate statutory reforms specifically designed to increase the severity of penalties in relation to crimes of violence, robberies, break-and-enter, burglaries,” he outlined.“Comprehensive sentencing guidelines need to be promulgated with an emphasis on mandatory custodial sentences and against the imposition of concurrent sentences for certain types of offences, for example robberies, break-and-enter, burglaries,” Nandlall declared“The enactment of a Bail Act — a draft of which ought to be with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel — which permits the grant of bail in respect of the aforementioned offences ONLY IN EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES; the recruitment and training of students who have completed the LLB programme at University of Guyana but are not, or have not yet gone on to Law School…”Nandlall urged that these graduates be placed in the prosecutorial arm of the State to prosecute serious offences in the magistrates’ courts. He also advised that if state counsel cannot prosecute in relation to the most serious offences, then special prosecutors should be hired to prosecute.Indeed, there have been cases of Police prosecutors being employed to go up against lawyers at the level of senior counsel. And there have been instances where those matters were of a high-profile nature.Human resourceNandlall also highlighted that there are over a thousand trained Police officers within the Guyana Police Force whose training is being squandered behind tasks civilians could do. He observed that this is despite the Force being under-strength.“These officers should be transferred to active duty. For example, the drivers, the dispatchers, the messengers, the secretaries, the clerks, the telephonists, the office assistants; even the persons who feed and bathe the horses and dogs, are all trained Police officers. These functions can easily be performed by civilians,” Nandlall opined.He is advising that the commander of each Police division be equipped with a legal advisor resident within the division. This advisor, he noted, should function under the supervision of the Senior Legal Advisor to the Police Force, who is stationed in Georgetown. In this case it is Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, and in collaboration with the nearest office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).Nandlall also advised that improvements be made at various Police stations. Even temporary detainees have periodically complained of terrible hygienic conditions while in police custody, including cases of detainees being made to sleep on floors, and having limited access to toilet facilities.“The facilities at Police Stations must be improved,” Nandlall stated. “Simple facilities like more telephone lines should be installed. Police station numbers must be posted at conspicuous places within the communities, and each station must be equipped with the ability to attend to calls and reports made in a timely fashion.“The 911 emergency call system must function efficiently 24 hours a day. Each division must be equipped with a SWAT team numbering not less than two dozen, fully equipped to deal with exceptionally dangerous situations,” Nandlall added.Since United Kingdom security expert Russell Combe, who was hired to assist with the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP), presented the final report to President David Granger in January, little has been said about the report’s implementation.Only two months ago, the US State Department had assessed the crime threat in the capital of Guyana as being “critical.” According to the latest 2018 Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) 2018 Crime and Safety Report, Guyana, with a population of just 750,000, has a general crime rate that “is above the US national average.”It said criminal activities continue to be a major issue, with serious crimes such as murder and armed robbery being common. The report added that “criminals regularly use weapons, despite a rigorous licensing requirement to own firearms.”last_img read more