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Monday, 31 May 2010

Trinidad and Tobago: Rights & Freedoms

Q: I always hear people talking about their rights, where can I find a list of this?

A: As with many countries, your rights as a citizen can be found in that country's Constitution. It's no different with Trinidad and Tobago, and your rights can be found in Section 4 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution.

It is hereby recognised and declared that in Trinidad and Tobago there
have existed and shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of
race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental human rights
and freedoms, namely–

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person
and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived
thereof except by due process of law

(b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the
protection of the law

(c) the right of the individual to respect for his private and family

(d) the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any
public authority in the exercise of any functions

(e) the right to join political parties and to express political views

(f) the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own
choice for the education of his child or ward

(g) freedom of movement

(h) freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance

(i) freedom of thought and expression

(j) freedom of association and assembly

(k) freedom of the press

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Statutory Rape: Consent is Irrelevant

Q: I had sex with a girl, but then I found out she was 15. She looked no younger than 21!

A: It is a well known fact that children are getting involved in sexual activity at the youngest ages we've ever seen, and sometimes subsequently having children, like this 13 year old father in England.

In Trinidad & Tobago, it is no different. A lot of girls use their school-time looking for older men, something which gives them "rank" amongst their peers.

Taking that into consideration, this advice is ESPECIALLY for men.

Statutory rape is a VERY serious offence, which is defined as sexual intercourse by an adult with a person below a statutorily designated age.

The legal age at which a male or a female citizen of Trinidad & Tobago is permitted to have sexual intercourse is sixteen (16) years and over. This is governed by Section 6 of the Sexual Offences Act 1986 as amended by Section 31 of the Sexual Offences Act 2000.

The criminal offense of statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who, under the law, is incapable of consenting to sex. Minors and physically and mentally incapacitated persons are deemed incapable of consenting to sex.. These persons are considered deserving of special protection because they are especially vulnerable due to their youth or condition.

Statutory rape is different from other types of rape in that force and lack of consent are not necessary for conviction. A defendant will be convicted of statutory rape even if the complainant explicitly consented to the sexual contact and no force was used by the actor. By contrast, other rape generally occurs when a person overcomes another person by force and without the person's consent.

The actor's age is an important factor in statutory rape where the offense is based on the victim's age. Furthermore, a defendant may not argue that he was mistaken as to the minor's age or incapacity.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Replevin: Trinidad & Tobago

Q: My Landlord changed the locks and doesn't want me to get my stuff. What can I do?

A: Replevin is a remedy that enables a tenant to recover possession of goods, which have been illegally distrained. This is further elucidated in Sealandaire Ltd v Paul (1994) High Court, No 169 of 1994

The remedy consists of two parts:
1. the replevy, whereby the tenant obtains re-delivery of the goods; and
2. the action of replevin, in which the validity or otherwise of the distree is determined.

Replevin is ONLY available where the distress was illegal, not where it was excessive or irregular. Illegal distress that can give rise to replevin are:
(a) where no rent was due
(b) where there was no demise at a fixed rent
(c) as in Selandaire, where the landlord/tenant relationship was terminated before the distress was levied

Excessessive distress occurs where more goods are seized than are reasonably necessary to satisfy the arrears of rent and proper charges of the distress.
Carter v Carter (1829) 130 ER 1118
Irregular distress occurs where, although there was a right of distress, a wrongful act was committed at some stage of the proceedings, subsequent to the seizure.
Op cit, Atkin’s Court Forms, fn 121
This remedy can be excercised at any time before the sale of goods. However, according to Warner J in Cornwall v Trincity Commercial Centre Ltd (1996) High Court, No 1437 of 1995, under s 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance of Trinidad and Tobago, the distrainor is empowered to sell the distrained goods if replevy is not made within five days.

If the claimant is successful, he will NOT be entitled to damages for the value of the goods if they were returned to him when the replevy was made, BUT may recover general damages annoyance and for injury to trade/credit/reputation. Smith v Enright -1893- 63 LJQB 220

For more information on Replevin, please read Commonwealth Caribbean Property Law by Gilbert Kodilinye

Friday, 28 May 2010

Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet: Sworn in on 28-05-2010

After her landslide victory on May 24th, Trinidad and Tobago's First Female Prime Minister has selected her new cabinet of Ministers.

Prime Minister and Minister of Information and Communication – Kamla Persad Bissessar

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan

Minister of Finance- Winston Dookeran

Minister of Works and Transport –Austin Jack Warner

Minister of Education – Dr. Tim Goopeesingh

Minister of Justice – Hubert Volney

Minister of Legal Affairs – Prakash Ramadhar

Minister of Labour, Small and Macro Enterprise Development – Errol Mcleod

Minister of Housing and Environment –Dr. Roodial Moonilal

Minister of Trade and Industry – Stephen Cadiz

Minister of Arts and Culture – Winston Peters

Minister of National Security – Brigadier John Sandy

Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs – Carolyn Seepersad Bachan

Minister of Foreign Affairs – Surujrattan Rambachan

Minister of Public Administration – Nan Ramgoolam

Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education – Fazal Karim

Minister of Public Utilities – Emmanuel George

Minister of Health – Teres Baptiste Cornelius

Minister of Food Production, Lands and Marine Affairs – Vasant Bharath

Minister of Planning, Economic Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs – Mary King

Minister of Local Government - Chandresh Sharma

Minister of Tourism – Dr. Rupert Griffith

Minister of Peoples and Social Development – Dr. Glen Ramdharsingh

Minister of Community Development – Nizam Baksh

Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs – Anil Roberts

Minister of Tobago Development – Vernalla Alleyne Toppin

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The People's Partnership Manifesto: UNC/COP/TOP

Despite stealing the title "Prosperity for all" from the United Kingdom's Labour Party, the manifesto of The People's Partnership is a prima facie, a great manifesto, EXCEPT for the part about giving all school children laptops... a very stupid idea. Any, now you could monitor the government's progress on the fulfillment of its promises.

UNC/COP/TOP: The People's Partnership Manifesto 2010

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Exclusive Possession

Q: Do I need permission from my Landlord to invite guests to my home?

A: Usually no because of the laws on Exclusive Possession and Quiet Enjoyment, but you should read your lease to ensure that your Landlord did not include it somewhere.

Exclusive possession is a necessary characteristic of a lease or tenancy that enables the Tenant to have exclusive possession of the property. This means that the tenant must be given the right to exclude all other persons from the property, including the Landlord. In other words, he doesn't have the right to tell you who to invite as long as you do not interfere with anyone else's Quiet Enjoyment Right.

The absence of exclusive possession means that a tenancy agreement does not exist, in which case it will be a mere license.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Quiet Enjoyment

The right of quiet enjoyment is the right of a tenant to enjoy a rented property without intrusion or disturbance by the landlord.

The leading Trinidad & Tobago case on this matter is:

Ram v Ramkissoon [1968] 13 WIR 332

The appellant was a statutory tenant of two rooms in a central portion of a building where he carried on business as a jeweller. The building was old and in a bad state of repair, and its two end portions had been unoccupied for several years. The respondent landlord, who owned the whole building, wished to obtain vacant possession of the central portion also.

While ejectment proceedings were pending, the respondent removed the galvanized iron sheets from the roof of both end portions of the building. The appellant complained that, as a direct consequence of the removal of the roof, rainwater seeped through the rooms he occupied, causing annoyance, discomfort and physical damage to his property. He claimed damages for breach of the landlord’s implied covenant for quiet enjoyment.

The damage suffered by the appellant was sufficiently substantial to constitute a breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment.

A covenant for quiet enjoyment must be implied from the respondent's contract of letting. To constitute an actionable breach, the interference with the tenant’s enjoyment of the tenancy must be substantial.
The course of conduct by the landlord seriously interfered with the tenant’s proper freedom in action in exercising his right of possession, tended to deprive him of the full benefit of it, and was an invasion of his rights as tenant to remain in possession undisturbed, and so would in itself constitute a breach of covenant.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Domestic Violence

Q: I don't think I could take anymore abuse, but I know he'll go crazy if I report it.

A: I worked as a Legal Intern at the House of Ruth in Baltimore, USA, so this is something that I've had first hand experience with.

My question to you is: What's more important? Your partner getting upset or you receiving a fatal blow one day?

When it comes to solutions for domestic violence, the most important thing to understand is, if it isn't getting better, it's getting worse. Don't fool yourself! If the violent person is promising to change but never does anything about that promise, get yourself and your children out of the environment and contact your local Police Station! If the violence includes more than just verbal abuse, make sure the abuser can't find you or the children and call 999.

The Domestic Violence Act (1999) is on your side. It was designed to provide greater protection for victims of domestic violence, so use it!

A United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office document released on 29 January 2008 stated that Trinidad and Tobago has a "high level of domestic violence," while human rights reports covering 2007 describe the problem of domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago as "significant"

Domestic violence, under the Domestic Violence Act, is the physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse committed by a person against a spouse, child, any other person who is a member of the household, or a dependant.

Even if you're as young as me, just by reading Sam Selvon's, A Brighter Sun (which most of us did for exams), one can see Domestic Violence even in those times when Tiger drank and abused his wife, Urmilla, so don't think it's a new phenomenon.

As time progressed and the number of incidents multiplied, Police administrators recognised that the domestic violence situation warranted their immediate attention. This was confirmed in 1991, when Trinidad and Tobago introduced legislation classifying particular offences as domestic violence. The then Commissioner of Police got actively involved in formulating directives to guide police officers in their response to reports of domestic violence.

Officers were instructed to respond promptly to all such reports. Casual dispersal of domestic violence reports was firmly discouraged. All reports of domestic violence were to be investigated and appropriate action instituted in the same manner as would be done in the investigation of any other crime.

This, unfortunately is not the current situation. The Police in Trinidad and Tobago are extremely lax with Domestic Violence incidents. In this Trinidad Express report in 2005, one of the women interviewed said she made "many many many reports." This Newsday report says that deaths quadrupled, even though Domestic Violence reports to the police increased by 60%.

I have a personal experience with this. Once when visiting a friend in Chaguanas, I saw a man cursing and kicking his door to get his wife to open after she'd managed to run inside to hide. When I contacted the Longdenville Police Post, I was calmly told, "We don't have any cars available." ABSOLUTE madness.

It is clear that the nonchalant attitude of the Police often result in the woman being killed, or in this case, the man. This is a leading case for Domestic Abuse in the UK. After initially being convicted, she was released because the courts finally realised the abuse she endured.

Protection Orders are meant to be protective barriers, but they are, in my opinion, ineffective. I personally do not recommend them because throughout the years, they've only proven to annoy the offender.

The website of Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs indicates that a Domestic Violence Unit was established in May 1997 to provide counselling, information and referral services, and outreach programs to victims of domestic violence. The Unit operates a twenty-four hour domestic violence hotline (800-SAVE)-7283) and community drop-in centres, which are open one day per week (one day is COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS). In 2008, the Inter-American Development Bank approved a US$24.5 million loan to Trinidad and Tobago to help reduce crime, including domestic violence

A Domestic Violence Registry has been in the works since 2008, whose purpose is to keep a more detailed, coherent register of offenders and victims, but I'm unsure as to the progress; I don't know if it's been implemented as yet.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Becoming a Lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago

Q: I've been considering becoming a Lawyer in Trinidad, but it seems so hard and it looks like it will take me FOREVER!

A: Deciding to become an Attorney/Lawyer is a great choice! Although it may seem like a saturated field, everyday many people sign up to pursue the career. Don't think negatively!

Here's what you need to do after you browse the Legal Profession Act 1986

A. Majority of Entrants

1. Law degree from the University of the West Indies (LLB) plus, legal education certificate obtained after a two-year course at the law schools. Such persons are automatically accepted for entry as UWI LLB graduates.


2. Law degree from other recognised universities
(including an external University of London degree) plus the Legal Education Certificate (LEC). Affected persons are required to compete by examination for limited available places.

B. Others

1. Overseas qualification as a practitioner
(barrister, solicitor, attorney, etc.) plus legal education certificate (lec) obtained after a six-month course at the law schools. (no examinations for entry or to obtain lec- places have been available)


2. Admission of commonwealth attorneys of at least ten years call by order of the attorney general and minister of legal affairs. (Always for limited purpose of a specific court matter so far).A person applying to the High Court for admission to the bar is required to satisfy the court that he/she:

(a) is a Commonwealth citizen,
(b) is of good character, and either
(c) holds the qualifications prescribed by law, or
(d) is a person in respect of whom an Order has been
made under Section 15A.

By virtue of Section 15 (1A), a national of Trinidad & Tobago who-
(a) has passed the Bar Finals or the Bar Vocational Course at an institution validated by the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, has been called to the Bar of England and Wales and has completed pupillage of at least six (6) months and is certified as such;

(b) has passed the Law Society Finals or the Legal Practice Course at an institution validated by the Law Society of England and Wales and having undertaken articles or a training contract in accordance with the Training Regulations of the Law Society of England and Wales, has been admitted to the roll of solicitors of the Supreme Court of England and Wales;

(c) has passed the Bar Vocational Course at an institution validated by the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales; or

(d) has passed the Legal Practice Course at an institution validated by the Law Society of England and Wales; and

(e) in the case of persons referred to in paragraphs (c) and (d) has obtained a certificate from the head of chambers of an attorney-at-law of not less than ten years standing, practising in Trinidad and Tobago to the effect that the national has undergone an attachment at those chambers for a continuous period of not less than six months doing work relating to the practice of Law, is deemed to hold the qualification prescribed by Law and is entitled, subject to the payment of the prescribed fees, to practise as an attorney-at-law in Trinidad and Tobago.

By virtue of Section 15A, which deals with special cases of admission, the Minister of Legal Affairs, where he considers it necessary or expedient after consultation with the Chief Justice, may by Order provide that a Commonwealth citizen who has been admitted to practise in a Commonwealth country for at least ten years, is eligible to be admitted to practise law in Trinidad and Tobago on such terms and conditions, including but not limited to the duration of the admission, as the Minister may specify in the Order.