Rowley hits bail ‘business’ – Justice favours criminals

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TOBAGO MOOD: Dr Keith Rowley at the Conversations with the PM forum on Thursday evening in Scarborough, Tobago. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PM – OPM

THE PRIME MINISTER has alleged that some people charged with serious criminal offences and who are out on bail, are carrying out criminal business, a part of which involves “paying the lawyer and bail man.”

Speaking during the Conversations with the Prime Minister forum on May 23 at the Scarborough Library, Tobago, Dr Rowley was highly critical of the justice system as it relates to treatment of those who commit murders and other violent crimes.

Referring specifically to those out on bail for violent acts, Rowley said, “Is a business they are carrying on, and the system facilitates it, because the system is skewed towards the rights of those people and not the rights of the victim.

“And until we start to look at these things from that perspective, then they laughing at us all the time, because the delay diminishes the horror of crime when crime takes place. So we need to be able to dispense justice faster and more effectively.”

This is not the first time the PM has had similar views on the justice system.

At a conversations forum in March 2022, he said then that in the last seven years, despite the resources and priority accorded to the Judiciary, he has not seen any acceleration of justice.

According to a Newsday article on March 9, 2022, Rowley said, “The delivery of justice in TT is unacceptably slow. I have been PM for seven years, I have given the Judiciary priority, hundreds of millions of dollars in resources, I ensured that the Parliament that was not being repaired, that it was repaired to completion, and the space the Parliament was occupying on the waterfront, we made it entirely available to the Judiciary, to have 75 additional courts.

“We have increased the numbers of masters and judges, removed from the judicial system 100,000-plus motor car cases, we’re giving demerit points rather than going before judges and magistrates, we’ve cut hundreds of thousands of cases from the system, and I have not haven’t seen any acceleration of justice in TT.”


Responding to a question on Thursday evening, from Mason Hall resident Wayne Pierre, about government’s plans to reduce crime, Rowley said, “In terms of what we can do to reduce the instances of crime and make the place safer, what we aim to do is to not let crime pay. If there are people who believe they can commit crime with impunity, they will do it and others will join them so there is an increase.

“But we have to have systems in place where for those who have broken the law and commit especially violent crimes, that they are held to account in a very real and effective manner and then we get justice on time.”

He said, unfortunately, much of that is not happening.

“In fact, it is now good business and the criminals do it. If you banish the apprehended, there is a very good chance that he will be getting grandchildren before your case goes to the courthouse. That is an area of serious concern to me.”

Rowley said although the police “do a significant amount of good work and will apprehend somebody, for some reason, the process of bringing that person to getting a jail cell or whatever conviction brings for him, is now something to take place in the future.

“And then of course, by the time the case comes around, the outrageous nature of the crime seems to have been reduced because that happened so long ago.”

The PM spoke about a situation in which a woman complained she had been raped 15 years earlier but was in the courthouse still waiting for the matter to be tried.

Rowley said that, to him, is a bigger problem than the prime minister having to respond to calls to fire National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

In May, last year, Hinds also claimed on state-owned television station TTT that criminals had friends in the Judiciary.

Hinds made the comment after High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled in favour of arms dealer Brent Thomas and after the judge severely criticised the conduct of investigating officers of the TTPS Professional Standards Bureau on April 25, 2023.

A Newsday article on May 10, 2023, said, Rampersad found that Thomas was “abducted” from Barbados and forcibly brought back to Trinidad to face charges.

Rampersad said while the Judiciary is not immune to criticism, when that comes from an arm of National Security, in a matter that is not yet completed, where it was said that “criminals have friends in the Judiciary,” the obvious intention is to do more than merely criticise the Judiciary, but to go further.

The judge added that he didn’t know Thomas or any of Thomas’ friends, families or acquaintances.

“I have no friends who are criminals,” Rampersad said on May 10, 2023, adding he was not being overly sensitive.

“When a cloud of illegality and criminality hangs over the administration of justice in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, we cannot sit idly by and do nothing and hope that it will all blow away in time.

“Drop by drop, the water falls, toppling even the mightiest of mountains. One has to therefore be very careful making statements which may seem innocuous at first but which carry a potent and damaging effect. Worse yet, if those statements are made without remorse.”


Rowley said for many people who work in the area of managing the affairs of criminals, “One of their strongest defence is the delay, and we need to get serious about that.”

Rowley observed that some countries with serious crime problems were able to “eliminate delays, bring people to court, dispense with them and remove them from the society.”

Lamenting that TT appears to be heading in the opposite direction, Rowley said in the era in which he was raised, “We were no more barbarous than we are now.”

The PM did not mince his words as he expressed his displeasure at the state of affairs in the Judiciary when it came to bail for certain serious crimes.

“Where I grew up, if you were charged for murder, you had no bail to get. And I never knew about anybody killing witnesses.

“But in this environment, where you get bail for murder and you come out and you have a gun again, what the hell do you expect? And they are following other people’s situation which are not fit for our situations.”

Rowley said he reads the newspaper early in the mornings or late at nights.

“The two things that get to me are when people, especially children, are hurt in violent crime, and when people use the system of justice in a way where they say they benefited. The perpetrator has benefited, not the victim!

“That gets to me and I feel helpless in that situation, because there is always some excuse.”Saying he was not attacking anybody personally, Rowley added, “I am just talking about the system.” –Additional reporting by ENRIQUE RUPERT