‘Scratch bombs’ to be banned in Trinidad & Tobago

(Trinidad Guardian) It’ll be more of a Silent Night this Christ­mas: “scratch” bombs have at last been banned and de­clared il­le­gal.

And any­one us­ing them here­on, in­clud­ing stu­dents, will face pros­e­cu­tion for an il­le­gal weapon.

This af­ter Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young an­nounced yes­ter­day that Cab­i­net had de­cid­ed to ban the im­por­ta­tion of scratch bombs im­me­di­ate­ly.

He said there have been calls for the ban­ning of the item for some time and there have al­so been re­ports of in­ci­dents of in­juries caused to chil­dren and adults by scratch bombs.

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young

“This is a re­al na­tion­al nui­sance,” Young said at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre in St Ann’s.

“Last year there was an in­ci­dent in which some­one threw a scratch bomb in­to a ve­hi­cle and the woman (in the car), in try­ing to pro­tect her grand­child, picked up the item to throw it out and it ex­plod­ed in her hand, caus­ing her to lose fin­gers.”

In that in­ci­dent, the woman— Sal­ly-Ann Cuffie—lost parts of her fin­gers and suf­fered in­juries to oth­er fin­gers when she threw the scratch bomb out of her fam­i­ly’s car. That in­ci­dent oc­curred dur­ing Di­vali 2016 when the fam­i­ly was dri­ving through Las Lo­mas. Dur­ing this year’s Di­vali cel­e­bra­tions, a fire at a prop­er­ty al­leged­ly caused by a scratch bomb left nine peo­ple home­less.

Young al­so not­ed re­cent re­ports of stu­dents threat­en­ing teach­ers with scratch bombs.

Ear­li­er this month, a Barataria South Sec­ondary School teacher was hos­pi­talised af­ter he was at­tacked by a pupil when he found the stu­dent det­o­nat­ing scratch bombs on the school’s com­pound and at­tempt­ed to take them away.

In an­oth­er in­ci­dent this month, the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry al­so sought to sus­pend four Ch­agua­nas North Sec­ondary School stu­dents for “scratch bomb-re­lat­ed in­frac­tions.” The min­istry, which has a ze­ro-tol­er­ance pol­i­cy on scratch bombs, called for en­forc­ing the max­i­mum pun­ish­ment on ap­pear­ance/use of such items fol­low­ing an up­surge of scratch bombs at lo­cal schools. The T&T Uni­fied Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion al­so agrees stu­dents should face charges for the items.

Yes­ter­day, Young said if any­one is found with a scratch bomb fol­low­ing the im­por­ta­tion ban it will be re­gard­ed as an il­le­gal weapon.

“So if you’re found with it or det­o­nat­ing it you’ll be charged and brought to court,” he said.

How­ev­er, Young said it will still be up to the po­lice to en­force the law on this.

“And I’m sure they’ll do so,” he said, adding no new law is need­ed to ef­fect the ban once or­dered by the min­istry im­me­di­ate­ly.

Schools will be safer— Gar­cia

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia yes­ter­day said he was elat­ed at the Cab­i­net’s de­ci­sion to out­law scratch bombs.

“The de­ci­sion is in sync with the re­cent re­view of our code of con­duct pol­i­cy which states in­cen­di­ary de­vices like scratch bombs are pro­hib­it­ed with­in schools. I’d al­ready de­cid­ed that any stu­dent found with this item or det­o­nat­ing it will be im­me­di­ate­ly sus­pend­ed and I’d asked prin­ci­pals for ex­tend­ed sus­pen­sions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions on such mat­ters,” Gar­cia said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“Cab­i­net’s de­ci­sion goes a lit­tle fur­ther since it’ll cause any new of­fend­ing stu­dent to be hauled be­fore the courts. We can sim­ply no longer tol­er­ate stu­dents wil­ful­ly and ma­li­cious­ly dis­rupt­ing the ed­u­ca­tion of oth­ers.

“Teach­ers in schools from North to South have con­stant­ly com­plained that apart from dis­rup­tive nois­es scratch bombs cause, in some in­stances both teach­ers and stu­dents have suf­fered ear drum-re­lat­ed dam­age, dif­fi­cul­ty in hear­ing and in some cas­es, ear and nose bleed­ing.”

He al­so said the Barataria school teacher who was at­tacked by the stu­dent he at­tempt­ed to seize scratch bombs from is out of the hos­pi­tal. The stu­dent has been sus­pend­ed and the mat­ter is now sub­ject of a case con­fer­ence in­volv­ing school/min­istry of­fi­cials and the par­ents.

Fire One Fire­works man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­dre Abra­ham al­so yes­ter­day com­mend­ed Gov­ern­ment for the ban.

“Scratch bombs are the en­e­my of Fire One Fire­works. We don’t sell this,” Abra­ham said.

“These items are il­le­gal­ly im­port­ed and they’re very dan­ger­ous and over-pow­ered – four times the pow­er of what is le­gal in the US mar­ket. They have no la­belling, no warn­ings, they’re sold by peo­ple dri­ven sole­ly by prof­it.”

He added: “But our prod­ucts are in­spect­ed by in­de­pen­dent US labs and are pre­mi­um prod­ucts. We’d love to col­lab­o­rate with au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide knowl­edge on what to look for with il­le­gal items. T&T’s laws gov­ern­ing the fire­works in­dus­try al­so need com­plete over­haul­ing and tight­en­ing to be much stricter.”

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