CoP ordered to lift suspension of businessman’s firearm licence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

POLICE Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher has been ordered to lift the suspension of a firearm user’s licence (FUL) of a businessman.

Justice Kevin Ramcharan made the order on June 24, ruling the commissioner took irrelevant matters into consideration when she suspended the businessman’s FUL in 2022.

The businessman has asked not to be identified by name.

Ramcharan also held that although Harewood-Christopher was entitled to take all relevant matters into consideration in determining whether to suspend the FUL, the FUL holder was entitled to be given an opportunity to be heard on it.

“Therefore, there was a breach of natural justice,” the judge said.

The irrelevant factors he outlined were matters in which, he said, there was no evidence of an investigation or charge: “The claim of impersonation of a police officer which is a serious and troubling offence and which one ought have thought would be the subject of urgent investigation by the police and the claim of a charge of driving under the influence which the claimant denies and for which the defendant has provided no evidence.”

The FUL, No 91/2015, was temporarily suspended on March 16 and the commissioner signed and published a notice the next day notifying of its suspension “to safeguard the safety of the public.”

The businessman, a director of a security firm, applied for judicial review after his licence was suspended when he was charged with common assault arising out of an incident in October 2022.

Justice Devindra Rampersad granted him an interim order in March 2023 for the return of the FUL.

However, the commissioner intervened after the judicial review application had been filed and told the court she intended to suspend the licence.

It was this action that drew the ire of the judge, who ruled that her decision had the “effect of frustrating this court’s order made on February 15, 2023.”

However, he did not order the return of the FUL, as he was told the decision would be the subject of another judicial review action, and because, “as the guardian of the rule of law, the court cannot shut its eyes to what has happened in terms of the process by the person charged under the statutes with the responsibility to maintain and monitor the firearms licence process.”

Rampersad said, however, the decision to suspend the FUL could have been made long before March 15, 2023.

He said it was the failure to “act with alacrity” that led to the court’s having to engage in the application for interim relief,” and it should have been dealt with more expeditiously, “rather than dragging it out for an unnecessarily long period.”

He also said the court was concerned about the “abuse of power” and the decision to suspend the licence was made “with the direct intention of frustrating this court’s order.”

It was for that reason he ordered the commissioner to pay the costs of the application and invited the parties to submit arguments on whether it should be on an indemnity basis “as a result of this seemingly egregious conduct,” or otherwise.

Ramcharan also ordered the commissioner to pay the businessman’s costs, to be assessed by a registrar if not agreed.

The businessman was represented by attorneys Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, Kristy Mohan and Narendra Lutchman.

Yohann Niles and Anya Ramute-Mohan represented the commissioner.