Trinidad: 121 prisoners released early to curb covid19 outbreak

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Trinidad: 121 prisoners released early to curb covid19 outbreak
Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan. FILE PHOTO -
Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan. FILE PHOTO –

(TRINIDAD NEWSDAY) – SO FAR, 121 prisoners have been released, with at least 262 more still to benefit from early release as the country tackles crowding in prisons and the global covid19 pandemic.

In a virtual court setting on Thursday, Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan was tasked with giving the court a list of people who have been convicted of summary offences and sentenced to over a year with 12 months remaining on their sentences.

He promised to complete it within six hours and deliver it electronically to Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds.

That list is of some of the eight categories of inmates who will able to access early release.

The other categories are: those on summary offences who got less than one year sentence (98); convicts on indictable offences but were tried summarily (62); those convicted on indictment (1); children (34); those granted bail who could not access it (137); children who could not access bail (7); and those jailed for owing child maintenance (44).

Last week the Government took the first step towards releasing inmates early as part of its measures to mitigate the spread of covid19.

The Attorney General’s office filed an application last Saturday, which Ramsumair-Hinds granted at an emergency hearing the next day.

At Thursday’s hearing the AG’s office was excused from further participation, since the bulk of the cases are bail-variation applications and possible dismissal of cases, both of which are powers that reside with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.

He and Deputy DPP George Busby were present on Thursday. Busby told the court that on receipt of the complete list of the status of the individual cases, criminal records of inmates and the statement of facts for each case, the DPPmay discontinue some, even without the accused filing independently.

The matter is scheduled to resume on Monday. But inmates are free to apply for variations of their bail independently, as one man who is on the completed list will do on Friday.

Other than the discontinuance and bail variations, all convicted cases will be addressed by National Security Minister Stuart Young ,along with the Mercy Committee. The National Security Ministry is not part of the court proceedings.

The AG’s office was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Ravi Rajcoomar, Jerome Rajcoomar, Aadam Hosein, Tenile Ramkissoon, and Ryan Grant. Appearing for the prisons commissioner was attorney Netram Kowlessar. John Heath appeared for the registrar, Christian Chandler for the police commissioner, Hasine Shaikh, Chief Public Defender, represented her department, and Sharlene Jaggernauth represented the Children’s Authority.

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