Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher – File photo by Lincoln Holder
POLICE Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher will not be retracting her position on renewals of firearm user’s licences (FULs).
This was made known late on Tuesday, the deadline she was given to do so by attorneys for firearms dealer Towfeek Ali and other FUL holders.
On February 4, Harewood-Christopher was given until February 6 to put a halt to the new policy for renewaing the licences.
At the start of the year, she announced that all FUL holders had to renew their permits, including those who were issued FULs before 2004, when the Firearms Act was amended.
Ali, his wife attorney Nyree Alfonso and several others are challenging the legality of the recent changes.
They insist that section 17(6) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act says FULs granted before the passage of the legislation in 2004 will remain valid unless terminated or revoked.
In response to a flurry of letters, on February 1, attorneys for the commissioner disagreed with the FUL holders’ interpretation of the act.
“The former section 17(6) is no longer law and therefore cannot properly be read together with section 17(8) or treated as continuing to permit FULs of indefinite duration,” said Allanna Rivas, head of the police legal department.
“These statutory criteria must not only be met at the time of the grant of the licence but maintained by all FUL holders.
“The renewal of FULs on a three-year basis, as contemplated by section 17(6) of the act, therefore promotes, supports and reinforces the commissioner’s regulation and oversight of FULs.”
Rivas also said the CoP’s notices were nothing more than a reminder to all FUL holders that their FULs must be renewed, and did not specify a year or date for renewal.
Alfonso did not agree and fired off another letter, to which Rivas responded late on February 6.
In it, she said, “Your suggestion that the commissioner could interpret the act to overlook your clients’ apparent deliberate non-compliance with the renewal regime or to preserve the validity of FULs of all non-compliant FUL holders are, frankly, self-serving and are rejected for the reasons already stated in our letter dated February 1, 2024.
“Your call for the commissioner to ignore the provisions of the act is also rejected for obvious reasons.”
Rivas said the rule of law required all FUL holders, including public authorities, to comply with the obligations imposed by statute.
She said it was Parliament that restricted the validity of an FUL to three years, subject to renewal.
“We, therefore, reiterate that invalidity due to non-renewal occurs by operation of law, and cannot reasonably or properly be construed or treated as a decision of the commissioner. There is therefore no decision by the commissioner to retract, as you suggest in your reply.”
The notices the commissioner issued advised of an amendment to the Finance Act to increase FUL renewal fees to $500 with effect from April 1.
The second notice, a reminder, also advised of a $500 fee and said it was separate from the annual renewal fee of $300 for each weapon. The notices warned of the risk of sanction, or revocation, of FULs if the requirements were not met by holders.
Firearm licence holder must also submit a certificate of competence issued by a registered firearm instructor, a medical certificate and a renewal application, all before April 1.