PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, October 4, 2019 (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), on Tuesday, urged people not to engage in vigilante justice, after a homeless man died at hospital, after being beaten by several people as he broke into a house in San Juan, along the east-west corridor, on Tuesday.
Police Public Relations Officer, Acting Superintendent Wayne Mystar, told the weekly news conference that while the police are seeking to develop and strengthen relations with communities, through watch groups, “there’s a thin line between a watch group and a vigilante group”.
Mystar said that vigilantism, described as law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a group of persons seeking to avenge a crime or an action, which is perceived as a crime, is not supported by police since, “it has the potential to cause harm, serious injury or loss of life and may result in criminal charges being brought against individuals, who participate in such acts”.
Police said one person is assisting their investigations into the homeless man, who, according to media reports, had been set upon by several people.
The senior police officer said that while the Criminal Law Act gives the powers of arrest to civilians, this should be done with extreme caution.
“What we are saying is if that person would have committed an arrestable offence, civilians would have the authority to assist in detaining that person,” he said, adding the use of force against the person being arrested, “must not be the type aimed at inflicting injury or death, but must be controlled to the degree that it is considered reasonable, in restraining or detaining a suspect”.
“The use of force must be consistent with the reasonable resistance, exhibited by the suspect. Once successful detaining of the individual has been achieved, he or she must be handed over, immediately, to the police.
“So what we are saying, in a nutshell, is that vigilantism is unlawful and should be discouraged by members of the community. Members of the community also put their lives at risk, if it is you trying to arrest someone and the chances of you being injured or losing your life is great”.
He said once the attempt to arrest is done, in collaboration with other people, the person must be handed over to law enforcement authorities, adding “failure to do so, and if that person dies, as what we had happened recently in the San Juan district, persons may be facing criminal charges”.