Griffith to approach High Court to strike down FUL report

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gary Griffith. File photo/Sureash Cholai

FORMER commissioner of police Gary Griffith has instructed his attorney Larry Lalla to apply for judicial review before the High Court to have a report on the conduct of the police’s Firearm Department struck down and declared null and void and of no effect. The audit, meant to examine the way the department issues firearms users licences (FULs), was done by retired police officers ACP Wellington Virgil, ACP Raymond Craig and Inspector Lennard Charles.

The Prime Minister, at a PNM public meeting, promised to lay parts of the audit report in Parliament.

In a ten-page letter to Dr Rowley on Monday, Griffith, through his attorney, cautioned the Prime Minister to hold his hand on laying the report or any part of it in Parliament or publishing it, pending the determination of the court application for judicial review.

Rowley has until September 4 to respond to the letter before Griffith’s attorney seeks an injunction against the Prime Minister.

Griffith’s lawyer raised concern over the provenance and basis of the appointment of the committee appointed, the basis on which the committee was selected and the time frame to have the investigation done and the procedure used to carry out the investigation.

At a PNM public meeting on August 23, Rowley said he regretted appointing Griffith as commissioner in 2018. He said it was his biggest mistake.

Rowley went on to talk about the report saying it was disturbing and troublesome but he had no intention of publicising its contents.

But, on Monday, Lalla said, “What is clearly disturbing and troublesome is: at no time during the conduct of its investigative exercise and compilation of the report did the members of the audit committee act fairly and observe the principals of natural justice.

“Any move to lay the report would disregard the constitutional rights of Griffith to approach the court to question the legality of the audit report which forms a cornerstone of our democracy.”

Lalla said the integrity of the report had been seriously compromised owing to Rowley’s prior public criticism of Griffith. Lalla also claimed the report had been leaked to the media.

The 17-page report, however, is expected to be laid in Parliament.

But Lalla said such a move will open the government to serious litigation and so the report must be removed.

Lalla also wrote to the Police Service Commission asking for Griffith to be allowed to see and respond to the contents of the report if a copy is sent to the commission.

In a text message on Tuesday, Griffith said, “PM Rowley should be the first to understand natural justice and give fair opportunity to be heard. Failure to do so makes him the ultimate hypocrite. This is exactly what he used, and rightly so, in the Landate matter when allegations were hurled at him and forwarded but under natural justice, he was not given the opportunity to be heard and the matter was thrown out.

“So to now have selectively hand-picked non-law enforcement personnel to investigate matters during a period when I was in command, and these individuals refused to communicate with me in any way, is identical to his rightful justification to rubbish the Landate report. Do so ent like so.”

Griffith was referring to allegations made against Rowley in 2004 in relation to the behaviour of contracting firm NH International (Caribbean) Ltd (NHIC) as it simultaneously carried out works on government’s Scarborough Hospital Development project and the Landate housing project owned by Rowley’s wife, Sharon Rowley. Dr Rowley, a government minister at the time, was accused of instructing NHIC to corruptly remove material from the hospital project site and use it to complete his wife’s housing project.

The allegations were investigated by the Integrity Commission in 2004 but the commission completed its investigation without properly informing Rowley of it or requesting his input. The commission went on to produce a report that was then forwarded to the then director of public prosecutions in 2006.

Rowley challenged the actions of the Integrity Commission in court in 2007.

In 2009, the High Court ruled that the commission’s decision to conduct and complete the Landate probe without properly informing Rowley or giving him an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations was in contravention of the Integrity in Public Life Act that governs its operation. The commission’s report, as a result, was deemed illegal and thrown out. Rowley was awarded $100,000 and legal costs as compensation.