Khan, SC, shocked at PM’s ‘justice favours criminals’ statement

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Israel Khan, SC. FILE PHOTO –

Head of the Criminal Bar Association Israel Khan, SC, said he is “totally shocked and flabbergasted” at the Prime Minister’s latest comments on the Judiciary.

At the Conversations with the Prime Minister forum on Thursday evening, Dr Rowley was highly critical of the justice system relating to bail being granted to people on serious criminal charges. These people, he claimed, then go out, get guns and commit crimes as a business which included paying lawyers and bail men.

“I am in total shock and flabbergasted of the PM saying the justice system is skewed in favour of perpetrators, not victims,” Khan said when contacted on Friday evening.

“He has been in charge of the Government for the last nine years, they would’ve foreseen this problem and this didn’t now start, it started many years ago. I am most shocked that the prime minister admitted that he does not know what to do to fix the system.”

Khan said the issue of bail was not to “keep people in jail” but to ensure that a person who is presumed to be innocent until found guilty by a court, can access his/her freedom while awaiting the judicial process under specific court-ordered conditions. “The onus is on the State to prove that you’re guilty.”

Khan said it was he and two other lawyers who, years ago, made a submission for murders to be categorised

“This very PNM government some 25 or 28 years ago, it could be 30, set up the Prescott Commission. I myself, with Alice Yorke Soo-Hon and (Gilbert) Peterson made a submission before the commission that murder should be categorised in the first, second and third degree and to expedite those who are charged with first degree murder.”

Khan said that the issue of slow justice not only affects TT, but the entire Commonwealth.

He pointed at many other issues that TT faces including the Opposition and Government’s failure to “sit down around a table and come up with plans.

“What has happened is that crime is treated in isolation. Young people who are joining gangs usually come from a certain background.

“Where are the trade schools in this country? Where is the encouragement to do national service? When are they going to give people gainful, meaningful employment instead of Cepep and URP jobs? Where is the re-organisation of the TTPS? Why is the army not assisting the police with joint-patrols? Why?

“What has me really mad is I never thought the prime minister would have said that. I still doubting he said that.

“If he is talking about all these things, then he has put his hands up in the air and said, ‘look, I can’t handle this and I don’t know what to do’,” Khan said.

He then asked Rowley: “If you cannot handle the small percentage of people who are committing crimes, then why are you in Government?”

If you can’t handle the situation, he added, pass on the position of PM to someone else in the Cabinet and go your way.

Khan said Rowley can’t blame anyone and everyone since, “you are in charge and you have finally admitted that you cannot handle the situation. Pack up and leave!”