Businessman sues CoP for return of his gun, licence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

A BUSINESSMAN travelling to Tobago whose gun was seized by police after he forgot a magazine with 13 rounds of nine-millimetre ammunition in his travel pouch is suing the Commissioner of Police for the return of his registered weapon.

Jerome Chung’s lawsuit came up for hearing on June 11 before Justice Frank Seepersad.

Chung wants his firearm and his firearm user’s licence returned.

At the virtual hearing, the Police Commissioner’s attorneys, Denice Greenidge and Anya Ramute-Mohan, said while no affidavit had been filed in response, they spoke briefly with Chung’s attorneys on the commissioner’s proposed position to prevent further legal action.

They asked for six weeks to get the necessary instructions and the commissioner’s position.

Chung’s attorneys Prakash Maharaj and Naveen Maraj agreed to the six weeks, saying they anticipated the items would be returned and their client would be able to have his FUL renewed.

The matter has been adjourned to July 18, when the parties will provide the judge with an update.

In his lawsuit, Chung is challenging the commissioner’s “unreasonable” delay in returning his items, her failure to perform her statutory duty and the unlawful seizure and detention of the firearm, FUL and his ID card.

His lawsuit said he was travelling to Tobago on November 24, 2021, when the scanner at the security checkpoint detected the magazine in the pouch. The Special Intelligence Unit (SIU) took the magazine and his FUL and he was detained and questioned.

Chung was told he should have declared possession of the ammunition, as it was an offence not to do so.

His lawsuit said he told the officers he had inadvertently left the magazine and FUL in the pouch when he secured his firearm and other ammunition in a safe at his home.

The registered Springfield Armory Hellcat pistol, ammunition and the FUL are usually kept in the pouch, his lawsuit said.

Chung was allegedly told he would not be charged, but was not allowed to declare the ammunition. Instead, he was detained for nine hours before being taken to his home, where the police took his gun and his national ID card.

He was then taken to the Arima police station at about 2 am and released around noon the next day.

In June 2023, after he tried unsuccessfully to get back his gun, FUL and ID card, his attorneys sent a pre-action protocol letter to the commissioner.

The police service’s legal officer told his attorneys they were getting instructions on whether investigations against Chung were complete and their outcome, the commissioner’s decision and whether or not criminal proceedings would be instituted against him, as the file was at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In October 2023, the police legal officer again said they had not yet received instructions, but the SIU was working to address Chung’s requests.

In December 2023, the police again asked for more time, saying they had to write to the divisional units and the commissioner’s decision before getting instructions.

Chung’s lawsuit said he has been a victim of several robberies at his business and was unable to protect himself, his family, his business and his property because of the detention of his firearm and ammunition for over two years.