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Two-thirds of all remand inmates on murder charges

PORT OF SPAIN — One out of every three of the country’s remand prisoners is a suspected killer.

This statistic was revealed yesterday by Justice Minister Christlyn Moore during a press conference held inside the Maximum Security Prison, Golden Grove Road in Arouca to deal with issues surrounding the lengthy delays with respect to the finalisation of matters against remand prisoners.

According to statistics, this country has 578 remand prisoners who are accused of murder, Moore said yesterday. There are approximately 1,800 remand prisoners in the country.

The majority of the murder accused, 387, have been awaiting trial for more than three years while the remaining 192 have been awaiting trial for less than three years.

Despite the number of accused killers currently in prison, however, 2,268 murders were committed in this country over the five year period 2008-2012, according to statistics on the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s website.

According to an Express tally there have been 159 murders recorded for this year so far.

In an attempt to help reduce the number of murder accused on remand who have been awaiting trial, Chief Justice Ivor Archie has set aside two weeks in September to hear the cases of those who wish to plead guilty, Moore said.

According to a survey taken by the Justice Ministry two months ago, 30 of the murder accused currently in remand want to plead guilty, Moore said.

The guilty pleas must be supported both by the “evidence and the law”, Moore said.

Moore hopes that now that a timetable has been scheduled to hear guilty please the state “may find more persons willing to take advantage of that facility”.

Moore yesterday met with 15 inmates who have been protesting the delays in their court matters by refusing to eat the food supplied by the prison.

Media reports have suggested that the prisoners were on a hunger strike.

Moore denied the claim.

“I believe that we can state with confidence that there is no hunger strike at the nation’s prisons. The position is that some prisoners, because they have access to alternative meals have been refusing the prison diet. And by the prison diet we mean the meals that are prepared for inmates on the compound, but we wish to categorically reassure there is no hunger strike occurring at the nation’s prisons,” she said.

Prison Commissioner Martin Martinez said “inmates who are in protest are indeed feasting on their cereal, on their water, on juices, on biscuits that they would have received from their friends and from their visits from their families”.

Martinez said when he visited the inmates to hear their concerns over the weekend they were “happy as a well-fed baby in a crib with a rattle”.

“There is no indication that they were emaciated, that they were starving they were listless it was just that they are refusing our food,” he said.

Moore said because murder is a non-bailable offence those accused killers feel the delays for trial “more acutely”. (Express)

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