Penal businessman challenges FUL delay by CoP

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher. – File photo by Roger Jacob

A Penal businessman has been permitted to challenge a three-year delay by the Police Commissioner in deciding on his application for a provisional firearm user’s licence.

On June 17, Justice Margaret Mohammed granted the businessman leave to pursue his judicial review claim.

The businessman has asked for his name not to be published because of the current crime situation.

In his lawsuit, he seeks an order to compel Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher to decide on his provisional licence application.

His lawsuit will come up for a hearing on December 5.

He said he applied for the provisional and firearm user’s licence (FUL) in January 2019. He said the police firearms permit unit kept telling him his file was being processed, until October 2020, when he was told it could not be found.

His lawsuit said he was advised to reapply, which he did in December 2020.

For both applications, he supplied the relevant documents.

In February 2021, he said, an investigator told him there was no objection to his having a provisional licence and this had been recommended.

“Since 2021, I visited and contacted the firearms permit unit of the TTPS to enquire about the status of my application and on each occasion, I was informed that the file was awaiting a decision from the CoP.”

He sought an update again in July 2022 and was told that there was a backlog of applications but his application would be reviewed and he would be given an update in six months. He was also told critical aspects of the investigation into him had not been covered and had to be done before the commissioner could make a decision. He was told to update his medical and psychiatric evaluation.

In April 2024, he made a freedom of information request, but there was no response.

A pre-action protocol letter was sent on April 28, which was only acknowledged.

“To date, the commissioner has failed and/or omitted to render a decision to the intended applicant’s/applicant’s application for a provisional licence.”

The lawsuit acknowledged that although there is no time limit for the commissioner to make a decision, one “must be made without reasonable delay.

“Delay, where it arises, does not accord with good administration and is justifiably recognised as legitimate grounds to warrant judicial review.

“Administrative decisions by administrative bodies directly impact upon the rights of citizens and must therefore be exercised in a way that is fair, just and proportionate.

“The CoP has been provided sufficient time to complete any further investigation on the firearm file and the provisional licence ought to be issued forthwith.

“I was investigated and the necessary reports were generated. There is no further action for the TTPS to complete before the issuance of the provisional licence,” the businessman’s lawsuit contends.

He is represented by attorneys Keron Ramkhalwhan, Shalini Sankar and Annesia Gunness.