THE POLICE Commissioner must be allowed, in the exercise of his constitutional authority, to manage the police service and deploy his officers as best he can in the management of the service, a High Court judge has said in a recent decision.
In a ruling delivered earlier this month, Justice Joan Charles said the court should not interfere with the commissioner’s authority unless he is potentially acting unfairly, unreasonably and/or illegally and in breach of his power.
Charles was ruling on an application to dispose of an interim injunction granted to an assistant Commissioner of Police who wanted the court to prevent Commissioner Gary Griffith from sending him on 80 days’ vacation leave.
Anthony James’ complained that come August 1, he would have been acting in the rank of ACP for three continuous years and if he was mandated to go on vacation leave as ordered by the commissioner for more than ten days, the three-year period would be interrupted and would disqualify him from being entitled to a pension, gratuity and allowances.
If he retired, after completing three years continuous service as an acting ACP, he would receive $200,000 more in gratuity and $2,000 more in pension.
He also argued that for every year he acts in the rank of ACP, he is entitled to an annual increment and would be eligible for increments in September 2010.
James was told to proceed on vacation leave on May 15. He said if he went, he would lose the benefit of additional monthly allowances which he earned in his capacity as ACP, totally approximately $6,900 and would lose the opportunity for promotion to the rank of deputy commissioner, even though he is the most senior officer in the service and is eligible to fill that position.
Charles said she had to consider that if James went on leave where the greater risk of injustice would lay.
Initially, to maintain the status quo by granting an ex-parte injunction, and prohibited Griffith from sending James on his accumulated vacation leave.
After the commissioner was served with the injunction order, his attorneys filed an application to have it discharged on the grounds that he is vested with the complete power to manage the police service and is mandated by section 123(1) of the Constitution to ensure that the human, financial and material resources available to the service are used in an efficient and effective manner.
The commissioner’s attorneys also argued James failed to disclose that he was not acting continuously in the rank of ACP and was, therefore, not at risk of having his continuous service broken by taking his vacation leave as he led the court to believe. James had taken 11 days’ in 2018 and ten in 2019.
It was also argued on behalf of the commissioner that if James took his leave as directed, he would not lose out on the opportunity to act as deputy CoP since the next vacancy in that post will take place around October when he is expected to return to work.
In her decision, Charles said an applicant, who is seeking interim remedies without notice, must disclose fully to the court all matters relevant to the application, including those which are adverse to it.
“I agree with the submissions of the defendant that the ex parte injunction ought not to have been granted on the facts of this case,” Charles said.
She also held that in discharging the injunction, there would be no irreparable damage James would suffer if sent on immediate leave and given his break in service, the loss he would incur would be the acting allowance for three months.
Charles also said he can be compensated in damages.
“I have concluded that the greater risk of injustice lies in continuing the injunction since it may serve to undermine the respondent’s ability to manage the police service in accordance with Section 123(1) of the Constitution. I consider that any loss that the claimant may suffer is quantifiable for which he can be compensated in damages,” she said, as she removed the injunction.
James was represented by attorneys John Heath and Naila Narine while attorneys Vanessa Gopaul and Chinara Harewood represented Commissioner Griffith.