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High Court Judge Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell

Derek Achong

A police officer, who was declared to have abandoned or resigned his job after he returned from suspension and was not re-issued an official uniform for over three years, has won his lawsuit against the Office of the Commissioner of Police.

Delivering a 19-page written judgment, yesterday, High Court Judge Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell upheld PC Gopaul Ragoonanan’s judicial review lawsuit in which he was alleging that the commissioner’s office acted unfairly and unreasonably in taking the decision without considering the relevant circumstances.

According to the evidence in the case, Ragoonanan was suspended for an alleged assault in March 2009 and was ordered to return his kit in accordance with the TTPS standing orders.

Ragoonanan’s kit included police uniforms and boots, a bullet proof vest, TTPS shoulder titles, and a TTPS identification card.

The case against Ragoonanan was dismissed in July 2013, but the suspension was only lifted in August 2016.

Ragoonanan did not immediately resume duty as he was instructed to proceed on two years outstanding leave.

While on leave, Ragoonanan made several unsuccessful attempts to collect his kit in preparation for his eventual return to duty.

When his leave ended, Ragoonanan, who was still without his kit, attended the San Juan and Santa Cruz Police Stations daily but could not perform his duties.

In October 2018, Ragoonanan made enquiries and was told that official records showed that he had not returned the kit when he was suspended almost a decade earlier.

Ragoonanan sent several text messages to former police commissioner Gary Griffith over the issue before he stopped reporting for duty.

In March 2019, a departmental order was issued indicating that the kit had to be re-issued, however Ragoonanan did not receive the correspondence until two months later.

Seven weeks later, Ragoonanan was told that he had to submit a report on his absence before being re-issued his kit.

In July 2019, he was issued a departmental order indicating that he had abandoned his job.

Several weeks later, he received a second letter, which spoke about an intention to declare that he had resigned by his actions of being absent from duty without leave or reasonable excuse.

Ragoonanan, through his attorneys, made representations on the issue but the decision remained the same, with the commissioner’s office indicating that he should return the kit, which was in fact never re-issued.

In the judgment,Donaldson-Honeywell ruled that the commissioner’s office conflated different termination circumstances to Ragoonanan’s action, namely resignation and abandonment.

She ruled that the only ill-advised decision Ragoonanan took was to stop reporting for duty without officially informing the TTPS of the reasons.

“If anything, a more reasonable action to be taken against the claimant by the defendant would be to have considered the failure to prepare a report on his absence as a disciplinary matter,” Donaldson-Honeywell said.

She ruled that the commissioner’s office failed to take into account Ragoonanan’s lack of kit, his repeated requests and his explanation for absence.

“In all the circumstances, there was no rationale or fair basis for the defendant’s decision,” she said.

Besides issuing a declaration against the decision, Donaldson-Honeywell also quashed it and directed that it be reconsidered.

The TTPS was also ordered to pay Ragoonanan’s legal costs for pursuing the lawsuit.

Ragoonanan was represented by Janet Peters and Rajiv Rickhi while Tsonda Gayle and Amy-Marie Castagne represented the commissioner’s office.