Codifying rules already governing the Evidence Act will not make it better.
That is the view of the United National Congress (UNC) temporary senator and criminal attorney Renuka Rambhajan made during her contribution to the Evidence (Amendment) Act in Senate yesterday.
Senate debated the Evidence (Amendment) Act which seeks to provide for the use of different identification procedures, interviews and oral admissions, special measures evidence by video link.
Rambhajan spoke just after Government senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal and said while they share a first name, they do not share an opinion on this debate.
“I suggest respectfully to the members of the Independent bench that what would happen is a plethora of cases being dismissed,” she said.
“Police officers are incapable or unable to satisfy the statutory burdens that the Attorney General wishes to place upon them through this piece of legislation,” she said.
Rambhajan said that the amendments were “exact replicas” of the English legislation.
“The difference between England and T&T is that we do not have the resources that they do,” Rambhajan said.
“If you are giving them legislative duties, you have to equally give them resources and I support my colleague, Senator (Jayanti) Lutchmedial, who said that there was a budgetary cut, so how are doing the two things?” she asked.
“So you want the police do something, but you not giving them nothing to do it with,” she said.
Rambhajan said she expected to be challenged on that matter and preempted by further explanation.
“The Attorney General would say we’ve provided the plant, the machinery, the tools and the people. Where is it? I am not seeing it, with the greatest of respect, “she said.
Rambhajan said that as well-intentioned as the amendments are, without the practical capabilities for implementation, it is all merely “words on paper”.
“That is all it is. And when you are dealing with the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of T&T, you cannot just reduce it to words on paper,” she said.
She painted a scenario of a man arrested at 2 am and taken to the station without a warrant and when he asked for his right to a phone call is told to use his mobile.
“That is a reality,” she said.
“Would the police have the relevant training, knowledge and capability to do that which they want to do through this legislation? I say to you they would not,” she added.
She said that something as simple as station diaries are often unavailable as police officers say that they use their private diaries for work purposes.
She said that while the Government’s attempt to fix the criminal justice system was “well-intentioned”, they needed to better understand it first.