A High Court Judge has deferred the hearing of an injunction seeking to have former police commissioner Gary Griffith reinstated, pending the determination of his lawsuit over allegedly being suspended by the Police Service Commission.
Justice Ricky Rahim was expected to hear submissions on the injunction and on whether Griffith should be granted leave to pursue his judicial review lawsuit against the commission during a virtual hearing yesterday, but was forced to adjourn to Monday based on requests from the commission.
Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, who led the commission’s legal team, indicated that they had received Griffith’s court filing late Monday evening and did not have time to read them and formulate a reply.
While Martineau requested that his team be given until next week to file their reply, Rahim said he was not willing to give such a long extension based on the urgency of the case. Rahim also said he was willing to sit on the Republic Day public holiday or over the weekend to hear and determine the application if necessary.
In the lawsuit, Griffith is claiming the commission’s decision to suspend him, based on an investigation into allegations of corruption related to the issuance of firearm user’s licences (FULs), was arrived at in an unfair manner. He is also claiming his rights to natural justice and protection of the law, under the Constitution, were breached.
Griffith’s move to file the lawsuit comes after the PSC stood its ground after Griffith threatened legal action on Saturday.
In his legal letter to the PSC’s chairman Bliss Seepersad, Griffith claimed the move, communicated in an email on Friday evening, was illegal, irrational and in breach of the rules of natural justice. He suggested his suspension was solely based on the commission initiating an investigation into the issuing of FULs and the handling of a recent incident involving the head of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) Legal Unit, Christian Chandler, on September 1.
Former Appellate Judge Stanley John was appointed to head the investigation, which allegedly arose out of a separate probe by retired Rear Admiral Hayden Pritchard and retired Senior Supt Arthur Barrington, initiated by the National Security Council (NSC) last year. The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is also investigating the allegations.
“It is noteworthy that in no correspondence has the commission informed me that I am the subject of any of these investigations, or that there is any allegation of wrongdoing made against me in relation to any of these investigations in my capacity as CoP,” Griffith said in the letter to the PSC.
Griffith noted that he had been contacted by Justice John on several occasions and provided all the assistance he (John) requested.
“However, at no time did he make, or ask me to respond to, any allegations whatsoever against me or the performance of the functions of my office,” Griffith said.
Griffith pointed to correspondence from Justice John, dated September 18, in which he (John) allegedly reiterated that investigating Griffith was beyond his remit.
The dispute with the PSC over the issues comes after Griffith had a public spat with National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, after he (Hinds) allegedly instructed him (Griffith) to remain on leave after Griffith enquired about resuming his acting duty on Tuesday. Griffith has claimed that Hinds acted outside his remit.
Social activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj has also filed a separate claim suggesting Griffith’s acting appointment was not properly done, as Parliamentary approval, as with the appointment of a substantive commissioner, was required.
Maharaj’s lawsuit came up for hearing before Justice Nadia Kangaloo yesterday and was adjourned to next Friday to set a time-line for determining the case.
During that hearing, Maharaj’s lawyer Anand Ramlogan, SC, claimed Maharaj’s lawsuit should be heard before Griffith’s or by the same judge, as if he (Maharaj) succeeds, Griffith’s lawsuit over suspension would be superfluous.
Douglas Mendes, Sc, who represented the Office of the Attorney General, indicated that the PSC and Griffith should have been named as parties to the interpretation lawsuit as opposed to his client, as they stand to be most affected by the outcome.
The PSC is currently barred from completing the recruitment process for the next police commissioner, as former Police Social and Welfare Association head, acting Senior Supt Anand Ramesar, has obtained an injunction against it.
Ramesar’s substantive lawsuit reportedly stems from the PSC’s decision not to select him to join other candidates in the interview stage of the recruitment process.
The injunction will stay in place until October 24, when High Court Judge Joan Charles, who has been assigned to preside over Ramesar’s substantive lawsuit, is expected to host a hearing of the case.
At that time, Charles will decide whether to discharge the injunction or extend it pending her final determination of the case.
Griffith is being represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, Jagdeo Singh, Larry Lalla, Alvin Ramroop, Michael Rooplal and Kristy Mohan. Russell Martineau, SC, Deborah Peake, SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon, Dominique Martineau and Savitri Sookraj-Beharry are representing the PSC.