Doubles vendor among 28 challenging CoP – Decide on FUL applications

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Nadia Kangaloo

A HIGH Court judge has given permission to 28 business people and homeowners to challenge the delay by the commissioner of police in making a decision on their firearm user’s licence (FUL) applications.

On Tuesday, Justice Nadia Kangaloo granted leave to the 28, who said they received their provisional firearms licences, completed their training and submitted their certificates of competence, but are yet to receive FULs.

The delays they complained of ranged between 22 and 25 months.

The judge also granted a former soldier permission to challenge the commissioner’s decision to keep his firearm which was seized after it was accidentally discharged in 2020.

They are represented by attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Leon Kalicharan, Karina Singh and Vashisht Seepersad.

Their complaint is that Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher “omitted, failed, neglected and refused to make a decision on their FULs despite having satisfied all requirements of the law and policy on the granting of firearm licences.”

They want declarations that the commissioner breached and failed to perform her duty under the Firearms Act and there has been an unreasonable delay.

They also want the court to declare that the commissioner’s delay is unlawful and illegal and they have been deprived of their legitimate expectation of a decision. Their application asks for orders directing her to make a decision in seven days.

The claim also seeks constitutional redress for the protection of the law.

The application sets out the process and requirements to obtain a FUL. One of the applicants, a doubles vendor, said he enquired several times about his application and not having been told there was an issue to hinder him from getting it, he believes there is no good reason why the commissioner has not made a decision.

“I am a doubles vendor and due to the high crime rate, I am more susceptible to being a victim of crime without a FUL and firearm. I am unable to protect myself and my family from criminal elements.

“I am also concerned for the safety and security of my family as I am unable to protect them fully due to the high crime rate in the country.”

Another applicant, a former soldier, said he began taking steps to get an FUL while in the army because of his concern for his family.

He received his licence in 2008 and successfully renewed it up to 2023. The FUL allows him to carry two firearms – a shotgun and a pistol – and ammunition.

The former soldier said he had no issues relating to his licence until 2020, when there was an incident of an accidental discharge of the pistol at a shop in his neighbourhood.

He said he carried the pistol when he went out at night because of robberies in the area and on that day, the button on his trousers failed, causing it to become loose and while he was trying to secure his firearm, it went off accidentally.

He shot himself in the lower abdomen and was treated at hospital. He reported the incident to police and they seized his licence, the two weapons and his ammunition pending their investigations.

Police also interviewed the ex-soldier, but he said he has not received any communication from them on his licence and firearms. His application said since no charges were laid against him, the seizure of his FUL and guns was unlawful.

He tried several times to get information from the police and was repeatedly told the matter was engaging the commissioner’s attention.

“I am advised by counsel and verily believe that the pattern of requesting further time without more, is reflective of a general pattern of unjustifiable, unwarranted, illegal, unreasonably, and irrational delay.

“The constant requests for additional time are a result of the unreasonable delay of the COP in discharging his/her statutory functions and a flagrant abdication of its discretion and therefore unlawful.

“Additionally, the COP has failed to provide a timeframe within which my firearms would be returned to me and, has failed to confirm whether these firearms would be returned to me at all.”

He said as a former member of the Defence Force, he was assigned to a joint-police task force, which resulted in him coming into contact with several criminal elements who have targeted him.

The ex-solder said he has since opened a business at his home and in recent times, his community has been plagued with home invasions.

“I am now afraid to open this business place late into the evening having regard to the ongoing situation. This state of crime and criminality has led villagers to embark on nightly patrols to look out for their fellow men and assist the TTPS in the identification of the criminal elements in the area.

“I remain fearful for my safety and well-being, having regard to the current crime epidemic pervading Trinidad and Tobago which presents a daily threat.”