Judge strikes down police standing orders on destroying pocket, station diaries

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Kevin Ramcharan. –

A HIGH Court judge has struck out two standing orders of the police service which deal with how long officers can keep their pocket diaries and station diaries.

In a ruling on Thursday, Justice Kevin Ramcharan declared that standing orders 16.13 and 17.11 were unreasonable as they allowed for the destruction of relevant records and material before the expiration of all limitation periods in court proceedings, as prescribed under the Limitation of Certain Actions Act.

The judge e-mailed his decision to attorneys and will provide his reasons at a later date.

Ramcharan was asked to determine a judicial review and constitutional claim filed by a Gasparillo man, Keron Phillip, whose car was impounded in Woodbrook in 2014. Phillip was charged for obstructing an officer and using insulting language after he asked why his car had been impounded.

In 2017, the charges against him were dismissed. In order to pursue a claim for malicious prosecution, Phillip’s attorneys sent a freedom of information request in April 2020 for copies of station diary extracts and pocket diaries, among other documents relating to his arrest.

In June, Phillip was told the requests had been denied because the extracts from the various registers were destroyed in keeping with the provisions of the standing orders.

The two standing orders which were challenged set out what should be done with pocket diaries after the prosecution of a criminal complaint ends and how long a station diary could be kept.

In his constitutional claim, Phillip’s attorneys Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Dr Che Dindial, and Jared Jagroo, argued that the standing orders conflicted with the limitation period of four years set out in law to bring a civil claim.

In response to Phillip’s claim, ACP William Nurse, who is head of the police service standing order committee since 2018, said the two contentious standing orders were among those scheduled for review and redraft. He said the committee’s mandate was to look at the standing orders to ensure they conform with the duties and requirements of police officers.

Nurse said although the covid19 pandemic had affected the work of the committee, when it does meet, the draft of the two standing orders will give consideration to not permitting the destruction of pocket and station diaries.

In his affidavit in response, Supt Glen Charles of the Port of Spain city police said there was a severe storage challenge at its storage container at Abbatoir Road and they took guidance from the police’s standing orders to allow for the creation of space by destroying books, registers, diaries and other documents no longer required for any investigation or court matter.

The Commissioner and Attorney General were represented by attorneys Michael Quamina, Tenille Ramkissoon, Vincent Jardine, and Tiffany Kissoon.