The current row that erupted over the arrest in Barbados of Trinidadian arms and ammunition dealer Brent Thomas has resulted in many legal debates over how our law enforcement and the Trinidad and Tobago cops acted in apprehending and charging the businessman on October 5, 2022.
The political leadership of both Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have asserted their hands are clear of any involvement in the matter and delegated reviews of the issue to the hierarchy of the Police Service of the two countries.
Attorney General Dale Marshall, who is not known for making rushed statements on controversial issues, deferred comment, indicating he would await the findings of a detailed investigation of the circumstances.
In a ruling against the Trinidad and Tobago Government, Justice Devindra Rampersad stirred a hornet’s nest last week when he ruled that the detention and transporting of Thomas from Barbados to Trinidad and Tobago where he was charged with firearm offences including those related to grenades, constituted an “abduction”.
Justice Rampersad found the actions of law enforcement officials of the two countries to be so outrageous and unconstitutional, that he ruled the charges Thomas faced surrounding the possession of rifles, ammunition and grenades should be dismissed.
The Trinidad government is appealing the judge’s decision and we await the outcome of that process.
In his role as CARICOM ambassador, David Comissiong asserted there were mechanisms in place to facilitate the arrest of wanted persons within CARICOM that bypassed the traditional extradition arrangements.
But that was not enough to quell the outrage on both sides of the Trinidad and Barbados borders over the whole affair.
The Trinidad Express Newspaper, in its editorial of April 29, described the situation as “a shameful blot”. The editorial was quite inflammatory in its language, slamming the action against the arms dealer as “persecution” and the “hounding of a citizen”.
It went on: “The brazen harassment of the victim and disrespect even for court orders would be outrage enough, but it rises to a whole different level when police officers can leave this country on a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force aircraft to participate in what the judge called the “international abduction” of Thomas with the co-operation of the Barbados Police Service to bring him back to Trinidad and Tobago to be charged.”
Attorney General Marshall formally responded to the controversy in a Ministerial Statement from the floor of Parliament. The government’s lead legal advisor rejected the idea that Mr Thomas was abducted by Barbados police.
Though not completely absolving local law enforcement from accusations they did not adhere to all the rules for undertaking such processes, Marshall made it clear there was no abduction or kidnapping of the Trinidadian.
“From the reports that I have received, I am satisfied that the actions of the Barbados Police Service have fallen somewhat short of applicable legal norms, such as acting under an extradition request. I, however, cannot associate myself with the description of the actions of the Barbados police officers as an abduction or as has elsewhere been described as a kidnapping,” he stated in the House of Assembly.
Based on reports from the Commissioner of Police, the Ministry of National Security, the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS), and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), local police simply “sought to assist a sister police service in a matter which appeared to them to be of a grave and important nature, and especially so, given the scourge of firearm violence that is a feature in Barbados and across the Caribbean”.
The Judge’s ruling came just days after the region gathered for a historic meeting in Port-of-Spain to address the growing crime wave and the debilitating impact of gun smuggling and gun crimes across the Caribbean. We can thus understand the urgency with which Barbados’ police responded to the request.
In the United States, they too are struggling with the impact of mass gun killings and pervasive access to firearms.
Were there a Barbadian being sought for arrest in relation to grenades, rifles, and ammunition charges in a neighbouring country, we would expect an expeditious and lawful response to our request also.