Policeman’s widow loses lawsuit over his gratuity

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo –

THE WIDOW of a police officer who sued the State for his gratuity has had her constitutional claim struck out by the court.

Justice Frank Seepersad upheld the State’s application to strike out Verelene Andrews’s claim for declaratory relief and compensation.

In her lawsuit, Andrews, the legal representative of her late husband’s estate, said her husband, PC Patterson Andrews, died on July 27, 2019, after serving 22 years. She said her husband was entitled to $258,158.84 in gratuity subject to deductions and $212,341.66 in salary in lieu of vacation leave.

She said she was told that the delay in payment was because her husband’s file was submitted to the police service’s internal audit section for auditing and returned with a number of queries to be addressed.

Andrews complained that up to the time of filing her lawsuit in April 2023, she had not received her husband’s gratuity and vacation leave salary which amounted to a breach of her constitutional rights and was in contravention of the police service regulations.

She further argued that the failure to pay in a reasonable time breached her right to the enjoyment of property and was entitled to compensation.

However, in his ruling, Seepersad said he was unable to accept that the delay in payment justified a claim for constitutional relief.

“The crux of the claimant’s complaint does not invoke a breach of any fundamental rights or freedoms.”

He said there were alternative remedies available to her including pursuing a claim for breach of contract or statutory duty.

“Although the court is empathetic to the claimant’s dilemma, the couching of her claim as a breach of sections 4 (a) and (b) of the Constitution cannot be condoned.”

He added, “It is evident that the claimant’s claim is premised upon a contractual employment entitlement.

“Her complaints all relate to the terms and conditions of her late husband’s employment and in particular the payments of gratuity and salary in lieu of vacation leave which are due by virtue of same.”

Seepersad was critical of the delay in payment, saying it was “unfortunate and should be condemned.”

“It seems, that, with alarming frequency a juggling exercise is often engaged and entitlements are not addressed and honoured in a timely manner.

“This approach occasions significant hardship to the citizens.

“Retirement and death benefits should be honoured with alacrity and the State should not wait for ‘riots’ to honour its obligations.

“Effective governance requires that the appropriate financing arrangements should be effected to enable the settling of statutory and contractual obligations.

He urged the State to act fairly and make “every effort to address this evident wrong.”

“All sums due and owing to the claimant’s deceased husband’s estate are overdue and must be settled.

Although dismissing her claim, Andrews was not ordered to pay the State’s costs.