20 new lawyers for DPP, says Attorney General

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Reginald Armour –

Attorney General (AG) Reginald Armour announced that 20 new lawyers have been appointed to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), in a bid to address concerns over staffing and space.

He made the announcement in a one-on-one interview on the Delving Deeper show on TTT on Sunday.

Armour said when he was appointed AG, one of his first priorities was to engage the DPP and speak with him on the challenges that his office was facing. Armour said some of the key issues and challenges he was aware of were staffing and space.

“The current situation is that the DPP has been understaffed,” he said. “There are other challenges that I know the DPP has, which involve dealing with the Judiciary, because they have been building out a very aggressive judicial trial process that requires the DPP’s lawyers to be in two places at the same time.

“One morning you are dealing with case management, and in the very same day you are dealing with trials, and there weren’t sufficient lawyers in the DPP’s department to have two different lawyers deal with two different things at the same time.

“So I know that is a challenge. It was brought to my attention by the DPP and it is something that I have spoken to the Chief Justice about.”

“That was improved by the 20 attorneys. Now, with the additional lawyers, I expect that it is going to build out into solutions.”

He described the new attorneys as “young, enthusiastic and hard-working.”

They came out of the Hugh Wooding Law School, he said.

Armour said space issues are also being addressed through  opening new offices on Park Street, Port of Spain. In 2020 the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) handed over to the DPP the ceremonial keys to the $24 million, six-storey office. The building has dedicated floors for the DPP’s executive secretariat, administrative and support units, processing units and units for indictment and vault usage.

New anti-terror legislation to bring ISIS refugees home

Armour also said the AG’s office was working on draft legislation that would provide a gateway for the wives and children who were taken to Syria by Trinidadians who left to join extremist group ISIS but have since died, so that they would be able to return home and be safely reintegrated in to TT’s society.

“One of the things that we are looking to do in the recent amendment that we are discussing at this point, and we are in active consultation with the Law Reform Commission (about), is to provide legislation that would try and find a gateway to bring those people back, but to bring them back in a way that may be sensitive to the fact that they will need help, and sensitive to the fact that they will need to be properly assessed both in terms of whether they would represent a security risk or healthwise, and housed in an environment which will allow them to transition back into TT,” Armour said.

Between 2013 and 2016 at least 130 people from TT, including women and children, left for Syria, as the men in the families went to join the caliphate as mercenary fighters loyal to IS. They are now believed to be dead.

Since 2017, families in TT of the women and children have been appealing to government to find a way to bring them back home. A repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration project was started to show government  it could be done safely.

In 2018 then minister of national security Stuart Young constituted a multidisciplinary and multi-agency team to deal with the possible repatriation of those in Syria and Iraq.

The team included members of the Financial Intelligence Unit, the police Terrorist Interdiction Unit  and the Child Protection Unit and the Anti-Terrorism Desk of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

ISIS fell in 2019.