Lawyers: Government must repeal CoP selection law

Former police commissioner Gary Griffith. FILE PHOTO -
Former police commissioner Gary Griffith. FILE PHOTO -

GOVERNMENT will have to convene an emergency session of Parliament to unravel the legislative mess it created by changing the process to appoint an acting commissioner of police.

This is the view of senior attorneys in the face of a legal opinion from Rolston Nelson, a retired Caribbean Court of Justice.

The lawyers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referred to Legal Notice 183 which was tabled by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, on the premise that it was simplifying the process for the Police Service Commission to appoint a commissioner and deputy commissioners of police.

The Legal Order 183 removed the requirement for the PSC to hire a human resource firm to select potential candidates and also removed the requirement for the vacancy to be advertised overseas. It also, for the first time, empowered the PSC to appoint a candidate who was previously on contract.

Only one candidate fell in that category – Gary Griffith – whose three-year contract ended on August 17.

In the Nelson opinion, which has been adopted by the Attorney General, Legal Notice 183 was deemed a "significant departure from its previous incarnations" and it also "canvasses the question of acting appointments."

Nelson noted that paragraph four of the Legal Order provides for the PSC to submit a list of names to the President where the office of CoP or DCP is vacant, or about to become vacant, and for the first time, included contract officers as possible nominees.

Nelson concluded that Griffith's appointment by the PSC was not legal as it did not meet the stringent requirements set out in the law.

He concluded that the on the facts before him, the acting appointment of Griffith by the PSC, after the expiration of his contract on August 17, was based on paragraph four of the Legal Notice which lacked the authority.

"Even if it has vires, as a matter of fact the nomination was not submitted to or approved by Parliament."

Alternatively, he concluded, "if the basis of section 123(1)(a) of the Constitution, since the period of the acting appointment, the incumbent CoP will be a non-police officer, his appointment would have to be approved by Parliament. That was not done in this case."

Nelson also suggested that the PSC's subsequent appointment of DCP McDonald Jacob to act as CoP until October 15 was lawful as he met the required criteria. AG Al-Rawi did not respond to Newsday queries on Thursday seeking clarity on the issue.

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