Monday 28 September, 2020

Police can stop COVID-19 house parties

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has the authority to shut down parties on private property as it enforces regulations currently in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith in a statement on Saturday advised that under Section 133 of the Public Health Ordinance, the police can take such action.

“As was stated…a few weeks ago, when there was discussion about the Police temporarily closing business establishments, inclusive of banks and supermarkets, if they did not adhere to the requirements as stated by the TTPS and the Government, which included social distancing of their customers awaiting entry into their premises, the TTPS indeed has a right to so do, via Section 133 of the Public Health Ordinance, giving the authority to enter any land or building and do what is necessary to save lives.”

He urged the public to be responsible and cooperate with officers as they enforce the regulations set out in the public health ordinance.

Griffith advised that the public should disregard advice stating otherwise, because the police will take action accordingly.

“So to those who try to be relevant and influence others into believing that you can commit irresponsible and even illegal acts in their own home during this period, that can affect lives and state that the Police can do nothing about it, the above authority can easily clarify. Yes, we can. Please be guided accordingly,” the Police Commissioner stated.

He put those who choose to act irresponsibly during this time on notice, advising of the different sections of law empowering the police to take particular actions.

The Police Commissioner said if any citizen becomes irresponsible and decides to commit actions, even in their own homes, that can affect the lives of others during this period, he has the following options:

1. Public Health Ordinance - Section 133 - Giving police right to power at that time to enter any land or building to save lives.

2. Public Nuisance - Section 70 of the Summary Offences Act, Chapter 11:02.

3. Based on neighbours sending complaints to the Police of excess noise, the Police can intervene and stop such events due to Noise Pollution, contrary to the EMA Act, Section 51.

4. If the Police are aware, via intelligence that there is an event, even on private property, of illegal activities, be it human trafficking, drugs on premises, lewd dancing etc., they can acquire a warrant and would do so and get it in minutes, and would indeed raid the said premises as given such authority in the Summary Courts Act, Chapter 4:20, Section 41.

5. The TTPS would also be waiting for such individuals who leave such events and would be greeting them via road-blocks, whereby Breathalysers and searches of their vehicles would also take place.

Griffith appealed to citizens to act responsibly and observe the physical distancing guidelines to ensure that the virus is not given the chance to spread.

He assured that operations will be undertaken within the confines of the law and without abuse of authority.

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