CONCERNED and frustrated by the police’s “lackadaisical approach” to court matters, a Freeport housewife wants the High Court to order the Police Commissioner to reinstate disciplinary proceedings against an officer for not attending court.
Maureen Dilchan Maharajh has received the permission of Justice Devindra Rampersad to challenge a decision by the commissioner to irrationally end disciplinary action against the officer.
Her lawsuit says the officer, Cpl Dindial Joseph, was assigned to the case against the man charged with causing her husband's death by dangerous driving.
But because he failed to go to court eight times, the magistrate dismissed the matter.
Internal disciplinary proceedings against Joseph were dismissed.
On August 15, 2011, Maharajh's husband was killed in a head-on collision in Manzanilla. The man driving the vehicle which ran into their car was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but six years later he was discharged when the magistrate threw out the case because Joseph failed to appear in court.
In her lawsuit, Maharajh said she initially put her trust in the police. After finding out the matter against the other driver had been dismissed, Maharajh said she learned disciplinary action against Joseph had been started but was discontinued.
After seeking information through a freedom of information request, Maharajh was told that because Joseph gave a reason for his absence from court on one occasion, the disciplinary action against him was discontinued.
The police also said they could not receive documentation from the court to determine whether the officer had missed more court dates.
However, Maharajh got information from the court that showed the case had been called 12 times and Joseph was absent on eight of those occasions.
At the 11th hearing, when the court fixed the matter for trial, Joseph was again absent and no prosecution witnesses were present, leading the magistrate to dismiss the matter.
The lawsuit said,“This is not the first time criminal matters which are presently prosecuted by the office of the DPP before the court have been dismissed because the police have failed to attend court.”
It also referred to a Newsday article on February 5 which spoke of the troublesome issue of police missing court leading to the dismissal of cases, saying Maharajh was “most appalled’ that officers continue to refuse to attend court..
“They have become notorious for not attending to their matters in court which oftentimes leads to matters being thrown out for trivial reasons such as non-appearance of the prosecution and without the court being able to properly assess the merits of the case,” the lawsuit added.
It also referred to the dismissal of some 30 charges against one of the suspects in the kidnap and murder of Andrea Bharatt for the same reason.
The lawsuit contends that the commissioner's decision to discontinue disciplinary proceedings against Joseph is irrational, as it was premised on a misconception that he only failed to attend court on one day, for which he had a sick leave certificate, that resulted in the dismissal of the case
“Public confidence in the TTPS and the criminal justice system as a whole would be seriously eroded if officers could persistently refuse to attend court in the knowledge that the court would be forced to eventually dismiss the matter without any form of disciplinary action and sanction,” the lawsuit added.
Maharajh said she was seeking the court’s permission to have the disciplinary proceedings against Joseph reinstated because of the need for justice to be served and as for the sake of a sense of retribution for her husband’s death.
She also wants the court to declare that the commissioner’s decision to dismiss the disciplinary proceedings irrational and illegal and for it to be quashed.
The mother of two, who, along with her children, was also injured in the crash, is represented by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Renuka Rambhajan, Alvin Pariagsingh and Alana Rambarran.