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Banned military-type training

Friday, September 16, 2016

Yes, criminals undergo training just as non-criminals do. They also have to be on top of their game. There are different types of crimes, thus differing criminals, and different training required. Obviously, there are those that use heavy weapons and military type action. The laws of T&T have provisions to deal with this deadly criminal behaviour.

It’s been in the public domain for some time that certain groups had and continue to be engaged in illegal military-type training. The Military Training (Prohibition) Act, No 14 of 1996, treats with such matters. People can be charged, prosecuted and convicted for these types of activities. The main question is: Have our surveillance units uncovered any or are they just rumours? Will the Government’s proposed surveillance establishment assist?

These illegal military training can be committed by gangs and terrorist groups. They, more often than not, may involve youths as we continue to see younger people being involved in such crimes. These groups and individuals are forbidden from training, drilling and equipping people with firearms, ammunition, artillery or explosives. Then, they are further prohibited from engaging in any such military exercises. And these illegal military trainings are prohibited from being conducted anywhere—land, air, water, buildings etc.

We often wonder: where do all of the criminal gangs conduct their training? Are there underground schools and training camps? Why haven’t these been located? Again, will the new measures announced by the government assist?

The current penalties for people who organise, manage, control, drill, equip or even take a part in organising such activities are:

• On summary conviction (by the magistrate court), a fine of TT$50,000 and five years imprisonment

• On conviction on indictment (by the high court), a fine of TT$200,000 and imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.  

The penalties are the same as stated above for people who actually participate in such types of training! Further, the same penalties exist for people who finance such. Should these penalties be increased to be a greater deterrent?  

Gangs and terrorist groups, for example, can be guilty of offences if they engage in subversive activities. These can be acts to overthrow a government as well as acts aimed at usurping the functions of law enforcement agencies or the military forces and the illegal training done to accomplish this.

• On summary conviction, the fine is TT$100,000 and seven years imprisonment.

• Upon conviction on indictment, the fine is TT$300,000 and imprisonment not exceeding 30 years.

• People who finance such activities face the same penalties.

Again, should these penalties be sterner?

We believe that tackling these illegal military-type training is one good way to start cracking the gang and terrorist groups in T&T. Yes, we have to target the training, drilling and equipping of them. People cannot have in their possession all of these high-powered weapons that are being used weekly and not be schooled on how to use them. This training is taking place somewhere. We must locate them!

Now, can we also say whether there is such training locally to supply terrorists for ISIS and other international terror organisations? We know that people are leaving our shores to join such groups. Is it possible that they also receive some training here, home, before going on their deadly journey?

To simplify matters, the President of T&T is the only authority to provide written authorisation for people and organisations to engage in such military training. Breaches will be easy to detect.

When it comes to taking action against people involved in such illegal military training, proof of things done or written or even spoken or published is required. This proof of things can be from a person whether he is a party to the proceedings or not.

 Where a magistrate is satisfied that the information provided shows reasonable grounds, a search and seizure warrant can be issued. Any person who obstructs an officer in the execution of his duties or even incite another person to do so shall face a fine of TT$5,000 and five years imprisonment upon summary conviction. This seems too soft a penalty.

There is a provision in this law for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to give prior consent for all prosecutions. The DPP is an independent arm of the judiciary. Of course, there will be other charges that can accompany those who deal with illegal military training, eg possession of arms and ammunition.

One recalls the July 1990 Jamaat al Muslimeen insurrection in T&T. Where did the mostly young people conduct their military type training? Interestingly, this law was passed six years after this incident. What if the law was there prior, could it have prevented it and lives and millions of dollars in damages been saved?

Given the massive expansion in technology and its easy availability, can we now see such illegal military type training done over the Internet, websites, social media, chat sites etc? Our laws should be revised to take into account these advancements. Just as online education is expanding, now too, online illegal military training can be a new illegal business enterprise.


Contact the CISPS for its full range of courses on cybercrime, law enforcement, corporate security, criminal law, investigations, OSH/HSE, etc. Tel: 223-6999, 299-8635, [email protected], or


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