Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite today vowed to introduce legislation to give the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) additional powers to arrest the worrying wave of gun violence.
Yesterday’s climax of Crop Over was marred by a shooting episode on Spring Garden, St Michael that left 20-year-old Taried Junior Rock dead and 20 other people injured.
In addition, there was a stabbing in Waterford, St Michael, resulting in the assailant being shot by police.
Even as he reiterated an earlier pledge to better equip law enforcers to rid the streets of illegal firearms, Brathwaite announced his intention to introduce legislation allowing for the interception of the communication of suspected criminals.
“I intend to work with the relevant minister. Let’s take a paper to Cabinet so we can have that [legislation]. It makes no sense in 2017, us having the resources available and not being able to utilize such facilities,” Brathwaite, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, said.
He also said he was contemplating measures to prevent people who are on bail from linking with criminal gangs.
“I am not sure how to frame it as yet, [but] . . . we have to really do something about these criminal groups and try to find some methodology . . . that in fact, we can prevent him [person on bail] from associating with certain areas or certain individuals,” he revealed.
In addition, Brathwaite said consideration was being given to measures for the protection of witnesses willing to testify against perpetrators.
To this end, he said, his ministry would examine Britain’s Criminal Justice Act of 2003 which modernized many areas of that country’s criminal justice system by amending laws relating to police powers, bail, disclosure, allocation of criminal offences, prosecution appeals, and double jeopardy among other areas.
“We have a few witnesses who are a bit concerned to cooperate with us. I have had the research done over the last week or so and we need to find some methodology so that persons can testify anonymously. And I believe that if we do that, then we will see more persons willing to cooperate,” Brathwaite said.
Contending that the youth can play a pivotal role in stemming the crime wave, the minister said Government would act to get young people involved in productive activities. “We do still have too many firearms in the hands of young gang members and we will provide more resources to remove these guns from our streets, but equally, move more of these young men and women into productive vocations. This will not happen immediately and will require all hands on deck,” an under-pressure Brathwaite said.
“What I just said to some of my colleagues in law enforcement is that this cannot just be a legalistic response . . . . I would like to see the Youth Service being given more funding so that they can take more of our young people into their programmes.”
Revealing that there were approximately “16 gangs or troublesome youth groups in a very small area” in Black Rock, the Freundel Stuart administration’s principal legal advisor said there was a need to visit the trouble spots to determine the level of poverty and unemployment and to assist more families.
Last night’s gun violence has caused particular concern to the administration of the island’s sole general hospital.
Stating that the incident has taught him some crucial lessons, Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Dexter James called for police security on wards which house victims of gun violence.
“[Lessons] include a need for us to strengthen the security arrangements within the Accident & Emergency Department and on the particular surgical ward where persons involved in shooting incidents would be warded,” Dr James told Barbados TODAY this morning, adding that he would hold “very urgent discussions,” with Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith to support the QEH in that regard.
He revealed that that five of the 20 people who were shot remained hospitalized, one of whom had to undergo emergency surgery.
He added that the QEH was fortunate that there were ten patients only at A&E during the mass casualty situation, and that there was sufficient blood to treat the injured.
Meanwhile, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley has issued a strong warning to the people behind the Kadooment Day violence.
“I hope that those persons responsible would now see that this festival is bigger than them and they should be assured that once they commit an offence, they would feel the full brunt of the law. There is no mistaking about that,” Lashley cautioned.
He said the Crop Over festival has grown and it was Government’s obligation to keep it safe.