There is a need for legislative reform when it comes to issuing search warrants, Justice Frank Seepersad said yesterday.
In the absence of such a reform, police officers can easily turn to a Justice of the Peace with information that may not reach the threshold of issuing such an order in the first place, but may still be issued contrary to the law, the judge said.
This was so, he said, because peace judges were not required to be legally qualified individuals and, therefore, they could issue search warrants while they were not even aware of obvious irregularities and misinformation about the order being sought. by the police.
The judge made the statement as he handed down a ruling in favor of Express against the offices of Attorney General, Police Commissioner and Supt Wendell Lucas, head of the Financial Investigation Branch (FIB) of TTPS.
The Express had challenged the execution of two search warrants in the Express House by police last March following the publication of an investigative story.
In his ruling, the judge said there was a lack of legislative reform, and, as a guardian of the Constitution, the court had to be strong in its defense of democratic principles and there is an obvious need for judicial guidance in order to fix the way in it. which search warrants are issued to be executed in the media.
These instructions should be followed by peace judges and police officers, he said.
The police must adopt an approach which is guided by the basic principles of justice and natural justice, and it must be acknowledged that there is a need to strike a balance between the interest of law enforcement, on the one hand, and the interest of privacy, on the other, protection. of the owner, said Seepersad.
He noted both orders before the court issued in accordance with Article 5 (1) of the Minor Offenses Act (Preliminary Investigation) of the Act, which provides for the issuance of an order on probation that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a construction of everything that will allow evidence for the commission of an unsuspecting offense.
He further stated that the payment orders reflected that the offense under investigation was the alleged offense of providing information.
However, under the Crime Revenue Act, providing information is not an unsolicited offense, but a brief offense, he said.
Only approach judges
The judge noted that the orders also stated that they had been issued for the purpose of gathering evidence in connection with a criminal offense contrary to Article 24 of the Income Crime Act, as amended. No such violation exists under Article 24 of the Product of Crime Act, the judge stated.
He went on to state that the referred section has nothing to do with the act of informing and sets out the procedure to be adopted by the DLE to obtain and modify confiscation orders due to an increase in the value of an offender property.
Ideally and with the effect of legislative reform, search warrants involving the disclosure of source information should be issued by High Court judges. Such a course can exert the shocking impact that the search for a media house can have on society.
Therefore, Parliament may wish to urgently consider adopting an amendment to Section 5 of the Minor Offenses Act (Preliminary Investigation).
Until the proposed legislative changes are undertaken, police should only turn to magistrates if they intend to obtain a search warrant to search a media house, the judge said.
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