A widow has been given the green light to sue the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith over a decision to discontinue disciplinary action against a police officer, whose repeated absence in court led to the man, charged with causing her husband’s death by dangerous driving, being freed.
Lawyers representing Maureen Dilchan-Maharajh filed the novel judicial review lawsuit last week and were given leave to pursue it by High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad.
According to the court filings, Dilchan-Maharajh’s husband died on August 15, 2011, after being involved in a head-on collision with a truck in Manzanilla.
Dilchan-Maharajh and the couple’s two sons were in the vehicle and suffered serious injuries but all survived.
The driver of the truck was eventually charged with causing her husband’s death by dangerous driving.
In March 2017, the charge was dismissed by Magistrate Debra Quintyne for want of prosecution.
Disciplinary proceedings were then brought against Cpl Dindial Joseph, who served as the police complainant in the case.
However, the proceedings were eventually discontinued after Joseph allegedly provided a sick leave certificate excusing him from work on the date of the hearing, in which Quintyne dismissed the case against the driver.
In the lawsuit, Dilchan-Maharajh’s lawyers are contending that the decision to discontinue the disciplinary charges was based on a misconception.
“It was open to the Commissioner of Police to consider that it would be wholly unreasonable and irrational for a Magistrate to dismiss proceedings due to the fact that Cpl Joseph was absent for one hearing and that he had a sick leave certificate. It stands to reason that it must have been happening as a matter of habit for such a decision to be taken,” her lawyer Alana Rambarran said in the court filings.
Rambarran also noted that her client applied for and obtained notes from the court hearings before Quintyne, which showed that Cpl Joseph had been absent from eight out of 12 hearings before the case was dismissed.
Rambarran claimed that in making the decision Griffith failed to make relevant considerations including the seriousness of the case, the effect on public confidence in the T&T Police Service (TTPS), and the effect on the surviving victims.
Through the lawsuit, Dilchan-Maharajh is seeking an order compelling Griffith to reinstate the proceedings against Cpl Joseph.
In her affidavit attached to the lawsuit, Dilchan-Maharajh noted that absenteeism by police officers was not unique to her case. She referred to several recent cases including reports on one of the suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Andrea Bharatt, whose criminal cases were dismissed under similar circumstances.
“I was most appalled that officers continue to refuse to attend court for their matters and nothing seems to be done to address the situation by the Commissioner of Police,” she said.
Dilchan-Maharajh is also being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, and Alvin Pariagnsingh.