Hinds: Appeal likely against ‘short cop’ ruling

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds – Grevic Alvarado

MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds on Friday suggested an appeal was likely to be made against a court ruling that short men should be considered for recruitment to the police service, as he expressed his view that there were specific reasons for hiring tall officers. He was addressing a handover ceremony of vehicles to the police service and defence force at the Vehicle Maintenance Company (VMCOTT), Beetham Estate, Laventille. Hinds spoke the day after High Court judge Justice Robin Mohammed awarded $400,000 in damages (inclusive of $225,000 in vindicatory damages), plus an unknown sum for legal costs to be assessed to Renaldo Maharaj, a police service applicant of 2020 who had not met the existing height requirement of 167 cm or 5 ft 5.7 inches. Mohammed declared the height stipulation in police service regulation 3(1)(f) violated the principle of equality of treatment laid down by the TT Constitution in section 4. The judge ordered the police service to reopen applications towards recruiting 1,000 officers.

Hinds said $225,000 in vindictory damages were awarded to reflect the court’s “abject dissatisfaction and angst” at an agency interfering with his constitutional rights.

“It is a matter of concern to me as Minister of National Security.”

He questioned the ruling, on both legal grounds and practical grounds to do the job of a police officer.

“In my view as a citizen, you want when you post an officer in a crowded he could be seen, and not only seen by the person standing immediately next to him.

“So there is a height requirement. And for good reason.”

Saying the court ruled the police service height requirement was discriminatory, Hinds was glad the TT Constitution allows court appeals.

“I am advised by the lawyers who have conduct of this matter on behalf of the State that we are in contemplation of an appeal, so the dust on the matter for our part has not settled as yet.”

Hinds cited legal arguments for retaining the height requirement based on his perusal of the judgement and his talks with attorneys.

These centred on whether the height requirement – originally set down in colonial-era laws – was or was not deemed to be “saved law” exempt from the provisions of the Constitution. Section 6 says pre-1962 laws will not be affected by section 4 of the Constitution, which lists the human rights and freedoms of nationals.

Hinds said the height requirement was set down in 1938 (pre-independence) and reaffirmed in 1971 (post-independence), with the regulations rearranged in 2007.

“This court (Justice Mohammed) is holding that it is not what we call – in accordance with section 6 of the Constitution – ‘saved law’. If it were saved, it remains as it was prior to Independence.

“I understand from the lawyers that another court had found that those regulations are protected by that section 6 and is ‘saved law’. So there are some nuances the lawyers will work out, but suffice it to say that for good reason, the police service would have established these height and other restrictions.

“The court has pronounced, the matter is most likely to be appealed, and then the dust will settle on that matter.”

Hinds said while the Government tries to bring about optional efficiency to the police service to fight crime, there will be challenges which the Government tackles.

“Just yapping, criticising and talking is not good enough.”

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher addressed the function but did not make herself available to take questions from reporters.