Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has evaded being held in contempt of court for failing to execute an almost two-year-old court order on the promotion of a veteran officer.
During a virtual hearing of the application brought by attorneys for Sgt Francis Chattie, yesterday afternoon, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad noted that Griffith could not be held liable for the inordinate delay as Chattie’s promotion exercise is within the remit of the T&T Police Service (TTPS)’s Promotion Advisory Board.
“The court is concerned that in an attempt to achieve a just and fair result for Mr Chattie, the court’s powers are not abused,” Seepersad said.
Testifying before Seepersad, Griffith noted that the board is currently not properly constituted as there is a vacancy for the position of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) for Administration, who chairs the board.
Griffith stated that while Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Irwin Hackshaw held an acting appointment, earlier year, the Police Service Commission (PSC) did not extend his tenure.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Griffith noted that the appointment would have to be made to also begin the disciplinary process against Hackshaw, under the Police Service Regulations, for allegedly moonlighting as a security consultant without the permission of Griffith’s predecessors.
Last week, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in a press release claimed that its investigation into the allegations against Hackshaw resulted in no criminal conduct but suggested that he should face disciplinary action under the regulations.
In yesterday’s hearing, Seepersad questioned why Griffith was required to write to the PSC, this week, to seek information on when it would fill the vacancies.
“Why does the Commissioner of Police have to agitate the PSC to appoint DCPs?” Seepersad said as he stated that such inefficiencies and others in the case directly lead to citizens facing injustices and turning to the court.
Seepersad also noted that besides the issue of the appointment of the DCP, compliance with the Court of Appeal’s order in Chattie’s case was also stymied for several months by the Minister of National Security’s failure to appoint his selection to the board.
“It seems like we are simply spinning top in mud,” Seepersad said.
He also expressed disquiet by the fact that the TTPS admitted that a merit list for promotions to the rank of Inspector had not been compiled since 2012 and the last list was used for promotions, which took place while the case was still pending in 2017. Seepersad noted that the lifespan of the list could only be legally extended by a year.
Chattie’s lawyer Anand Ramlogan, SC, pointed out that in March when Hackshaw held the post and the board was properly constituted the TTPS assured his client and the court that Chattie would be interviewed within 14 days.
Attorney Lester Chariah, who led Griffith’s legal team, claimed that the issue was caused by consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Griffith’s legal team sought an adjournment of the case to allow for the PSC’s appointment and the board to set up the interview and assessment process, Seepersad upheld Ramlogan’s submission that the case should be resolved so that his client could be considered before he eventually retires in December.
Seepersad said that if the Appeal Court’s order could not be complied with before Chattie retired, it would make a mockery of the rule of law and administration of justice.
As Griffith claimed that he expected the vacancy to be filled within the next few days, Seepersad helped the parties set strict timelines for the board to complete the process.
Ramlogan noted that the Court of Appeal’s ruling did not mean that Chattie would be automatically promoted but rather that he would be considered along with the approximately 580 officers, who would be vying for 23 appointments as Inspectors.
Ramlogan expressed confidence in his client’s chances as he noted that Chattie the top-performing candidate in his last assessment almost a decade ago.
As part of his final order, Seepersad instructed that it be forwarded to the PSC Chairman to help reiterate the importance of resolving the appointment issue.
Chattie was also represented by Alvin Pariagsingh and Alana Rambarran, while Joel Roper and TTPS Director of Legal Christian Chandler represented Griffith.