A police constable, who was shot by a prison officer while executing a search warrant at his home in 2015, has crossed the first hurdle in his legal challenge over an alleged T&T Prison Service policy to allow off-duty officers to use their service weapon for personal protection.
High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad recently granted PC Vishal Singh leave to pursue his judicial review claim against the Commissioner of Prisons over the alleged policy.
In his court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, Singh’s legal team contended that the policy, which seeks to allow officers who are deemed to be “constructively” on duty permission to carry their service weapons, is illegal.
They claim that under the Firearms Act, only officers that are on active duty are permitted such permission and that a firearm users’ license issued by the Commissioner of Police is required for such use by off-duty officers.
“The act clearly does not empower him to make such a policy- the act clearly restricts and specifically defines when a firearm can be issued to an officer and the respondent cannot on his own volition expand the circumstances in which same may be done outwit the four corners of the act,” they said.
According to the evidence in the case presented thus far, on August 10, 2015, Singh, who was assigned to the Sangre Grande Police Station, received a tip that a man in the district had an illegal firearm and ammunition.
Singh and three of his colleagues attempted to execute a search warrant at the man’s home but there was an exchange of gunfire.
Singh was shot in his chest and back, while the man, who was later identified as prison officer Ruel Accoo, was also wounded.
Accoo’s injuries were less severe and he was treated and discharged. Singh was left with a bullet lodged in his back and had to undergo extensive treatment but has since returned to active duty.
Following the incident, Singh made several requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to both the Prisons and Police Commissioner for information on the shooting and Accoo’s status as a holder of a firearm.
Both office holders claimed that the information was exempt but Singh eventually obtained much of the sought disclosure after successfully pursuing lawsuits over the issue.
Singh then sued Accoo personally for assault and battery. Accoo filed a similar lawsuit against Singh, his colleagues and the State. Both cases are still pending determination.
Through the lawsuit before Rampersad, Singh is seeking declarations against the policy and not compensation.
Singh is being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alvin Pariagsingh, Douglas Bayley and Ganesh Saroop.
The case is expected to come up for case management on September 18.