Policeman Duane O’Connor can challenge Police Commissioner Gary Griffith’s decision to suspend him for offering himself for screening for the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the last local government election.
O’Connor, who is also a former calypso monarch, is represented by attorneys Renuka Rambhajan, Douglas Bayley and Anand Ramlogan, SC.
Justice Robin Mohammed granted him permission to pursue his judicial review claim, which is to be filed in 14 days. A case management hearing has been set for September 21 in the San Fernando High Court.
O’Connor said his firm intention was to resign as a police officer if he was selected as the candidate for St Ann’s River South. He was not selected.
The lawsuit contends that the the screening was a private matter and at no point did he publicly show support for any party. It also said he was assured by the PNM’s screening committee that the process was confidential and only when a successful candidate was chosen and finalised, would the identity of that person be made public.
It said was on that assurance that he offered himself for screening and, having not been selected, he was no longer obliged to consider resigning from the service.
It said O’Connor trusted his nomination would remain confidential and was even removed from the room on the day of screening before the media came in.
On April 29, O’Connor received a notice that alleged he had presented himself as a nominee to be screened at the 2019 local government election. He was given seven days to provide a written explanation. Before he could respond, he asked for the name of the person who received the complaint, who made the complaint, and a record of the complaint.
He also reminded of the police service regulations, which say should he not respond, he will be deemed to have denied the allegation.
He received no response but on July 2, O’Connor received notice that he had been charged for “partisanship” contrary to the regulations and his letter of suspension.
He was also charged with publishing a personal comment on local and administrative matters without the permission of the commissioner.
His disciplinary tribunal matter was listed for July 6.
The hearing of the tribunal was adjourned pending disclosure of the information asked for by the lawyers.
He argues that the commissioner ordered his suspension without a final determination of his disciplinary matter before the tribunal and insists he did not publicly show support or partisanship to any political party.
“The applicant has never shown any form of political bias and he has always remained professional and responsible in the performance of his duties without fear or favour, malice or ill-will,” his claim says.
He intends to seek constitutional relief and, according to the letter, every citizen has a right to join political parties, express political views, and a general right of thought and expression.
On June 18, Griffith, announcing O’Connor’s suspension at a media briefing, said the political persuasion of police officers must not be promoted through any public means as it could compromise their image as officers of the law.
“Very few police officers believe it is their constitutional right to openly show support for a political party. Every one of my police officers has their right to support who they choose, but that must be done and remain in here.
“(If) at any time, any police officer, in or out of uniform, decides to openly condemn or support a political party, or even decides to go up as a candidate and boasts on the front page (of a newspaper) that he supports the philosophy and role and function and principles of a political party, those are the types of police officers that must be immediately disciplined,” Griffith said.
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