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AG: Safeguards on police searches

AG: Safeguards on police searches

THE Attorney General put safeguards on how police search warrants can be conducted under new legislation, the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings)(Amendment) (No 3) Bill 2019. The insertions came in the committee stage of the House of Representatives on Monday.

Rodrigo Ribadeneira

Faris Al-Rawi said the amended bill would still allow multiple searches of premises as in the draft bill, but a master of the court can now put time limitations on the police. He said the current law does not set down any time-frame for a search warrant, although in practice the police usually opt to seek to renew a warrant at the law courts if it is not used within a month

The AG said under the current law any magistrate, not even a master, can issue a search warrant if he reasonably suspects an offence has been committed

The current law is much broader. We are adding in safeguards here.”

Al-Rawi said the safeguards are based on the British Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act. He said the idea of multiple searches was to support the police who are in hot pursuit

Al-Rawi said the legislation would not affect how search warrants were carried out under other laws such as the Anti Gang Act and Anti Terrorism Act

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked what was meant by control of premises

The AG replied this might not be the legal owner but another person controlling the property like a manager or a guard. He said it is defined as premises controlled by a person named in the warrant. Gopeesingh reckoned the bill had ambiguity, but the AG said it was all settled law

Asked what happened if someone refused to accept a warrant, the AG said it would be thrown at their feet. He recalled his shock when once comforting a family at a funeral, an election petition was thrown at his feet

Gopeesingh said the police had once searched his office without a warrant and then violated the sanctity of his home likewise, only for the chief magistrate to ultimately declare that the charges were not known to the law

The AG said legal action was available as a remedy against false imprisonment and malicious prosecution by the police but those were costly.