Judge to rule on Griffith’s FUL audit lawsuit early next year

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gary Griffith. File photo/Sureash Cholai

Early next year former police commissioner Gary Griffith will know the outcome of his lawsuit against the Prime Minister and members of his National Security Council over the controversial firearm user’s licence (FUL) audit report in Parliament.

On Friday, Justice Devindra Rampersad said he will give a decision in Griffith’s substantive lawsuit by the end of February or early March.

In three weeks’ time, on December 12, he will rule on Griffith’s injunction application to prevent the report being laid in Parliament.

On October 28, Rampersad granted Griffith leave to pursue a judicial review claim challenging the legality of the setting-up of the committee to do the audit and its investigation.

Named in Griffith’s lawsuit are Dr Rowley; former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi; ministers Fitzgerald Hinds, Colm Imbert, Stuart Young, and Marvin Gonzales, as members of the NSC; and retired police officers Wellington Virgil, Raymond Craig and Lennard Charles, who formed part of the audit team.

On Friday, attorneys for Griffith, the Prime Minister and his ministers, and the police officers said they had agreed to a timetable for the filing of submissions on the judicial review claim.

However, they did not agree on an undertaking by the PM and his ministers on the publication of the report, as lead counsel for Dr Rowley and the NSC members said Young had given an assurance that it would not be published.

“We are not giving an undertaking, because we have given our word. We are not going to devalue the word of ministers or the Cabinet. If we say so, we say so. We don’t have to give an undertaking in a court setting…But we will obey any order the court makes,” Martineau submitted.

He was responding to an earlier submission by Griffith’s lead attorney, Avory Sinanan, SC, who referred the judge to a Newsday article on a sitting of a joint select committee of Parliament at which Hinds referred to contents of the firearms audit report.

Sinanan said because of this the bonafides of the assurance given was questionable.

“It is not a proper assurance.”

He said Young’s assurance gave his client no comfort because of the information his colleague had revealed in Parliament.

Sinanan said Griffith did not want to be “railroaded by the heavy hand of officialdom” by having the report “leaked in drips through the back door.” He accused the Government of not wanting to “take the short step and go the extra yard” to give an undertaking that could be sanctioned by the court.

“My client cannot sacrifice the vindication of his right on the altar of expediency. Clearly what they have given is a half-cocked assurance, and ‘if you don’t like it, we are not giving you anything more.’”

Rampersad said since the parties were not in agreement on an official undertaking, he would rule in chambers on the injunction application and notify the parties of his decision by e-mail on December 12, after they send him their submissions. He is also expected to decide whether a fourth police officer, who also sat on the audit committee, should be joined to Griffith’s lawsuit.

In his lawsuit, the former top cop wants the court to order the PM and his ministers to disclose the names of the members of the audit committee and grant declarations that the decision to commission the report infringed his rights and was illegal, unlawful, and irrational, since they did not have the power to appoint the committee.

Griffith is also asking for the quashing of the report or any part of it that concerns him.

Griffith is also being represented by Larry Lalla and Ajay Baball. Kerwyn Garcia, Tenille Ramkissoon and Kendra Mark-Gordon are appearing alongside Martineau for the PM and the council. The members of the audit committee were represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, Rishi Dass and Brent James.