by Vernon Khelawan
From where I stand, it would seem that the administration of the law is somewhat skewed: it is not equally or fairly applied in Trinidad and Tobago. Let me explain from the outset that I am not qualified in law, but in my many years as a journalist, I have seen what I prefer to call many unjust applications of sentences.
Let us look at some cases determined in the most recent past. A young female doctor found driving ‘under the influence’ was charged, went to court and was fined $20,000. She broke the law and had to be punished.
The fine was exorbitant by any standard for a first-time offender, but it is the law. I understand that and imagine she, of all people, should know better and would probably have vowed not to commit the same offence again.
But in the news story I read, appearing on the same page of a daily newspaper, a senior member of our Upper House or Senate if we prefer, was charged several months ago for a similar offence but only now sentenced.
He was given a ‘bligh’ by the court and placed on a bond for some time. It is not for me to determine, but it would seem to me that something is unfair here. Is it that the Senator is privileged and the doctor is not?
Then there is the matter involving a High Court judge. Only this time, apart from being stopped and found to be driving ‘under the influence’, he was involved in an accident.
The news story gave no details as to the other driver or how serious the accident was and if anyone was hurt. Up to now the matter, although taken to court, has not been determined, since the police are saying that the wrong charge was erroneously placed against the judge. While that is being sorted, the matter remains hanging. Something seems to be amiss here.
The fact is the judge was caught driving drunk and more than that, he was involved in an accident. Now driving drunk, as far as I know, is a charge. If the police decide that additional charges be added because of the accident, that can very easily be done. Again, something seems to be wrong here and the question remains: Why has the judge not been charged and brought to court?
So, we look at these three situations. They all have one thing in common—all three drivers were caught driving drunk, but the resultant penalties are all very different, very unequal it would seem, to say the least.
There is one other incident of recent vintage and from reports the public seems really confused as a convicted felon who was accused of being in possession of millions in marijuana received, as people have said, a rap on the knuckles with a relatively small fine of $18,000. This appears to reflect great disparity in the dispensation of justice locally.
It has caused some ripples in the society and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has promised to investigate the matter. So we wait with bated breath for the results of the investigation.