FIVE Privy Council judges have reserved their decision in an appeal brought by head of the Prison Officers' Association Ceron Richards, against the Public Service Commission relating to his suspension in 2016, for allegedly failing to secure his firearm which was stolen during a robbery at his home.
In 2017, Justice Ricky Rahim found the commission was unfair not to have taken Richards’ account for the firearm and ammunition and quashed the suspension decision.
The commission successfully appealed Rahim’s ruling in 2019, with the Court of Appeal ruling the judge erred when he assumed the mere assertion that the gun had been stolen was an account of the items.
Justices of Appeal Gregory Smith, Prakash Moosai, and Peter Rajkumar ruled that natural justice did not require the commission to provide Richards an opportunity to be heard before suspending him since public service regulation 88, did not provide for an implied hearing before a suspension, and did set out a comprehensive code in how it handled allegations against a public officer.
The appellate court also held the commission was only required to consider the matters prescribed by regulation 88 in the public interest or the reputation of the public service when issuing a suspension, and it had done so.
Before the commission's appeal was heard it notified Richards that it would not be proceeding with any charges against him and lifted his suspension.
Richards appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Privy Council which was heard virtually on Thursday.
He was represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, while the commission was represented by Thomas Roe, QC.
In his submissions, Maharaj said all the commission had before it was bare allegations and that trial judge Rahim was correct in arriving at the decision he did.
He said Richards provided an explanation behind the theft of the gun but this was not considered before he was suspended. Maharaj also said it was not set out by the commission why it felt the public's interest would be served by the suspension.
Maharaj said Richards complied with the requirements under the Firearms Act by securing the weapon and the commission “could have asked questions.
“The commission acted on bare allegations and they had an opportunity to hear from him.”
Roe countered there was no practical injustice meted out to Richards when there was no right under the regulations to be heard before suspension.
Roe insisted there was no basis for saying the decision to suspend was unfair. The allegations against Richards, which were eventually not pursued, were that he failed to adequately secure and account for the firearm and ammunition.