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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fireworks law: Trinidad and Tobago

Q: What is the law on fireworks and bursting bamboo in Trinidad & Tobago? Secondly, I saw someone with a flare and my cousin told me that it's illegal. Is this true?

A: The use of fireworks isn’t illegal, but they must be used in accordance with the law.

An “explosive” is defined under the Explosives Act 1907, as amended as gunpowder, nitro-glycerine, dynamite, guncotton, blasting powders, fulminate of mercury or of other metals, coloured fires, and *every other substance, whether similar to those above-mentioned or not, used or manufactured with a view to produce a practical effect by explosion or a pyrotechnic effect; and includes fog signals, **fireworks, fuses, rockets, percussion caps, detonators, cartridges, ammunition of all descriptions, and every adaptation or preparation of an explosive as above defined;

*The above definition would also include bursting bamboo. 

**“Fireworks” is specified under the Summary Offences Act 1921, as amended to include bombs, torpedoes, squibs, rockets and serpents;

Where it can be used:
The Summary Offences Act 1921, as amended

99. (1) Except as prescribed by **Regulations under this Act, any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks within any town is liable to a fine of one thousand dollars ($1000).

(2) In this section and in sections 100 and 101, “town” includes the City of Port-of-Spain, the City of San Fernando, and the Borough of Arima, and every part of the area within two miles of the boundaries of such City or of either of such Boroughs, and also any place or area declared by the Minister, by Order, to be a town or to be deemed to be included within a town for the purposes of the said sections.

100. Any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks into, in, or upon any street not being in any town, or into, in, or upon any place being within sixty feet of the centre of any such street, is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars ($400).

This means that the use of fireworks without a permit can legally only occur in the most rural of areas.

**Permission to set off fireworks: Fireworks Permits Regulations (made under s. 101 of the SOA)

If someone wants to set off fireworks in one of the “banned” areas, permission must be obtained at least forty-eight (48) hours prior, from the Commissioner of Police or a Superintendent with the authority, which  will be in writing, prescribing the time and place.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Bad and "big-name" Lawyers

I came across this article in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday newpapers' website and came up with an idea for a blog post. In the article, the Former Minister of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Herbert Volney "lashed out at 'bad boy' lawyers whom he said are only concerned with making money".

Society believes that the "best" lawyers are the big-name ones who are extremely popular; i.e., the ones we see and and hear about on tv, but society couldn't be more wrong! What many people don't know is that when one goes to the "big-name" lawyers, one rarely gets the Lawyer him/herself; in most cases, a junior lawyer in the chambers (office space with numerous lawyers paying a rent to the "big-name" lawyer) deals with the matter. What the "big-name" guys do is set up chambers in their name, so people would run to that office and of course, the bigger the name the more rent the junior lawyers would have to pay. These "big-name" lawyers make money from (1) the rent (usually around $3000/month per lawyer (they usually have around 5 in chambers) and (2) the big time cases, so your little divorce or land dispute is nothing to him/her. 

If s/he does promise to take on your case personally, you'll most likely end-up with him/her rejecting your divorce hearing for a bigger, more lucrative murder trial and you'll be sitting at Family Court constantly trying the office number and not getting an answer (you wouldn't have his/her mobile number because s/he's too "big" to give you those details).

After continuously hearing complaints from clients of being ripped off by lawyers, especially well-known, "established" ones, I have decided to highlight some of the signs to look for when you end up with a quack, which unfortunately, is VERY common in Trinidad and Tobago. 
  1. Before s/he even talks to you, the first thing they discuss is money. 
  2. During the consultation, s/he barely looks at your documents or listens to your concerns and you feel rushed throughout the entire meeting. 
  3. Be wary of any lawyer who seems overly confident about the case and is only focused on giving you the positives and ignoring the potential downsides. 
  4. Condescending, rude and disrespectful. Some people believe that being a lawyer makes them better than the rest of society, and while it may come with some perks that make life easier, it does not in any way make anyone better. Find a cordial, down-to-earth lawyer. 
  5. Lawyers work for YOU, the client. You don't work for the lawyer, so s/he must follow your instructions. Don't ever let a lawyer bully you into making a decision that you don't want to make. You may think that they're making the best decision for you, but lawyers are humans, and so mistakes can, and will be occasionally made. 
Now, if you ignored those or didn't notice them and decided to retain the lawyer to represent you, there are also signs later on:
  1. Poor communication. S/He is hard to get on to, and your appointments are weeks down the road, unless of course s/he has a valid reason such as sickness, but otherwise, the time should be made within 2 days to meet a client, even if it's for a short period. I give all my clients 24/7 access; they all have my mobile number and I chat with them anytime, anywhere via phone or Whatsapp!  
  2. When your lawyer starts missing deadlines to file documents and has to ask for extensions and adjournments, your case is not important enough, so give it to someone else who would think it's important. 
  3. Your lawyer keeps bad records and has to ask for documents more than once because they were "misplaced". 
  4. S/He is late with the preparation of documents and late to court appearances. 
  5. Your lawyer DOES NOT show up at court. To me, this is the biggest red-flag. If it happens once, don't wait for it to happen a second time!
I hope that this information assists with your search for a good lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Remember, if you believe that your lawyer has been negligent, you can file a complaint with the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago Disciplinary Committee.