Harbouring a fugitive is against the law
Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News
December 30, 2006

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Many people have asked how it is Guyana allowed a situation whereby following the jailbreak of February 2002, the gunmen in Buxton for an extended period were able to hold out in that village with the protection of some of the residents.

The answer to that question is complex and involves cowardice and fear of the PNCR by the government. However, one of the explanations as to why the gunmen were able to enjoy protection from some villagers is because those villagers who were subsequently found to have been harboring the criminals were allowed to get away with it.

Many Guyanese would recall that many an occasion when the police went into Buxton, residents would come out from their homes, in some cases with small children and place themselves in the line of fire between the police and their suspected targets. Those persons who were acting as obstructionists to the police arresting the criminals should have been arrested also and charged for aiding and abetting criminals.

In general, the reason why a person goes about committing crimes with impunity is because he or she feels that they can get away with it. It emboldens criminals when they feel that they will not be punished for their actions. Therefore it is the duty of the law enforcement authorities to be unambiguous in asserting that if you do the crime that you must do the time; that people must not feel that they can commit a crime and simply get away with it.

It is a crime to harbour criminals, to give support to criminal activities and to conceal knowledge of a crime or the whereabouts of criminals.

Any person who is found to be harbouring a criminal should find no mercy from the law. That person should be charged and forced to pay the penalty directed by the courts should he or she be found guilty. There must be no pussyfooting by the Guyana Police Force when it comes to prosecuting those involved in harbouring criminals.

I have in previous columns been highly critical of the failure of the Guyana Police Force to bring to justice many of those whom it was suspected were involved in providing meals, shelter and support for criminal gangs. In many instances some of the members of these gangs were found in homes. Yet I have not heard of any charges being laid against anyone for harbouring or providing support to criminals.

We are sending a negative signal to society if we fail to prosecute those for whom there is evidence of harbouring a fugitive from the law. And this failure is one of the reasons why this country went through such a difficult period for close to three years. The failure of the police to demonstrate that they will be serious in bringing to justice those who gave shelter and material support to criminals may have given the impression that these forms of support could be given with minimal risk.

I urge the police not to make the same mistake that was made in the past. Where the evidence exists to prosecute those who give support, harbour, or conceal a criminal or a criminal activity, action must be taken. Once these persons are brought to court, I believe that the judiciary will deal them fairly and in compliance with the law.

We cannot be asking citizens to support the Guyana Police Force to combat crime when in so many cases in the past there has been a failure to prosecute those that gave support to criminals. Why should citizens put themselves at risk as informers when those that harbour criminals or come out into the streets and place themselves between the police and the bandits are not charged?

I have stated before, the risk to our police whenever there is support for criminals. I recall in one instance there was a report, where as police moved in on a house, a resident was shouting to the criminals informing them about the movements of the police. The lives of those ranks were placed at risk and yet that resident was not arrested. She should have been and charged so that those who may have had similar intentions to assist criminals would know the consequences.