Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has been temporarily barred from terminating the services of a police officer, who is currently on remand awaiting trial for murder.
Delivering a ruling during a virtual hearing, yesterday morning, High Court Judge Ricky Rahim granted an injunction blocking the proposed move pending the outcome of PC Safraz Juman’s judicial review lawsuit against Griffith.
In late 2011, Juman, and his colleagues Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo, PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, and Antonio Ramadhan were charged with the murders of Abigail Johnson, Alana Duncan, and Kerron “Fingers” Eccles.
Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, Eccles, 29, and 20-year-old Johnson, both of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, were killed on July 22, 2011.
The friends were driving in Duncan’s vehicle when it was stopped by police at the corner of Rochard Douglas Road and Gunness Trace Junction in Barrackpore. Initial reports claimed that the friends shot at police, who returned fire.
WPC Nicole Clement was initially jointly charged with her colleagues but has since been made a State witness.
In July 2013, Juman and his colleagues were committed to stand trial for the murders at the end of their preliminary inquiry.
On May 1, Juman, who is on remand at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, received a letter from Griffith indicating that he (Griffith) was contemplating either dismissing him for inefficiency or requiring him to retire based on public interest concerns over his prolonged absence from the T&T Police Service (TTPS) due to his ongoing suspension.
Griffith claimed that he was empowered to do so under the Constitution and a series of Police Service Regulations.
“The limited resources of the TTPS are burdened by its requirement to continually make salary payments to you in your absence. It is in the best interest of the TTPS to properly allocate its resources to active TTPS police officers and/or other areas of need,” Griffith said in the letter.
In his decision, Rahim noted that in the letter Griffith claimed he was of the utmost belief that the action should be taken but still invited submissions from Juman on whether it should be done or not.
“The indications of the defendant in the said letter, therefore, seem ambiguous at best as the letter appears to lack clarity and certainty of purpose,” Rahim said.
While he did not determine the substantive issues in the case, he noted that Juman had raised valid claims which had to be determined at an eventual trial.
“There is a real argument that the opportunity to give reasons as to why he should not be dismissed is illusory or is an empty promise of consideration of such representations when taken in the context of the statement by the defendant that he is of the utmost belief that it is in the public interest to dismiss the claimant or require him to retire from the TTPS,” Rahim said.
Before granting the injunction, Rahim noted that financial compensation would be inadequate in the case and that the TTPS would suffer less prejudice and hardship than Juman without the injunction in place.
Rahim also noted that the case was important in helping define the powers of the Police Commissioner as the termination methods perused by Griffith in Juman’s case are important tools for properly managing the TTPS.
“In fact, there may be a salient argument in this case to the contrary in that it is in the interest of the public generally that the process employed when exercising the new power given to the COP is devoid of irrelevant considerations, fair and can withstand judicial scrutiny,” Rahim said.
Juman was represented by Israel Khan, SC, and Ulric Skerritt, while Rishi Dass led Griffith’s legal team.