Boat captain takes CoP to court over FUL silence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher – File photo by Lincoln Holder

A DIEGO Martin businessman and motor launch captain is challenging the failure of Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher to decide on his application for a firearm user’s licence (FUL).

On February 15, Justice Frank Seepersad granted leave to the businessman to pursue his lawsuit against the commissioner.

In March 2021, he applied for a provisional licence because he had concerns for the safety of his family and business. He then did all the necessary training and received a certificate of competence five months later.

In June 2022, he applied for the FUL and has been waiting since.

He is now challenging the delay by the commissioner in fulfilling her statutory duties under the Firearms Act.

His lawsuit contends under section 17 of the act, the commissioner has the discretion to grant a licence and the commissioner has a non-delegable duty to decide on an application for an FUL.

“To date, the respondent has failed and/or neglected to exercise her discretion and render a decision on whether to grant or deny my application.

“An excess of one year and seven months have passed since my submission of an application for a FUL licence.”

There is no stipulated time frame for the commissioner to decide on an application nor does the act set one. However, the businessman’s lawsuit said the commissioner has not provided an update on his application nor has she provided an explanation every time he asked about its status.

He also said because he often sails TT’s waters, he is significantly exposed to criminal elements.

“The escalated crime situation in my neighbourhood and across the country, has presented risks to my business operations, my occupational duties as a captain and my home.

“My family and I felt vulnerable to the criminal elements. These factors combined create a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty for myself and my family’s safety and the ability to protect ourselves against any home invasion.”

In October 2023, a High Court judge declared there was an unreasonable delay of two years to decide on a FUL application. There are scores of similar lawsuits against the commissioner.

On January 31, Harewood-Christopher told a Joint Select Committee of Parliament that firearms user’s licences (FULs) continue to be approved on legitimate requests. She added there are currently 25,000 FUL applications awaiting review and she had approved just over 100 during her one-year tenure in office.

The businessman is represented by attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Keston Lewis and Jasmyn Sargeant.