EVERY firearm users licence (FUL) issued under the pen of former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith will be investigated, again.
On Tuesday National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds announced that a six-member team, comprising of three former police officers will conduct an audit of the firearms, ammunition and other aspects of the FUL issued in the past three years.
The audit comes one week after retired Justice Stanley John completed his investigation into the same matter after he was commissioned by the Police Service Commission (PSC) in September.
DCP Mc Donald Jacob said three retired officers – Wellington Virgil, Raymond Craig and Luke Charles – along with three current officers and a secretariat from the National Security Ministry will oversee the audit. He could not say if the auditors would be paid.
In announcing the audit, Hinds said John's report triggered the new investigation.
John was hired to conduct the investigation after the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by the Prime Minister, appointed retired Rear Admiral Hayden Pritchard and retired Snr Supt Arthur Barrington last December to look into the issuing of FULs.
Under Griffith, over 5,000 FULs were granted, with over 100 civilians being allowed to carry semi-automatic weapons. Before his tenure, an average of 200 FULs were issued annually, mainly for civilians to carry handguns and shotguns.
The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is also investigating the matter even as police are conducting a criminal probe into the FUL process.
“John found in his investigation that there were issues that directly impacted the business of the national security of Trinidad and Tobago. Sufficiently so that he shared the report with the chairman of the National Security Council.”
Hinds said Dr Rowley instructed him to speak with Jacob for an audit to be done. The audit will not only look at the firearms unit of the police service but gun dealers and shooting ranges. The auditors will have three months to complete their audit.
Hinds said while there were other investigations in the past into the unit, with not much coming out of them, he encouraged the population to “wait and see” what comes out of this one.
The investigations came following media reports last year of alleged impropriety in the granting of licenses.
The firearms unit was moved from under the human resource (HR) department and placed directly under the authority of Griffith.
Prior to it being a subset of the HR department, it formed part of the now-defunct Organised Crime Narcotics and Firearms Bureau (OCNFB).
In response, Griffith said it was disappointing that the National Security Minister called a media conference to address legal firearms while all the murders committed are with illegal guns.
In a voice recording sent to Newsday, Griffith said: “This has indeed been a disappointment. One would have thought, in a situation where prison officers are being gunned down, dozens of law abiding citizens been killed in cold blood in broad daylight, one would have thought that the focus of this media conference would have been to deal with the problems of illegal firearms.”
He added that there have been other investigations in the past with nothing improper being uncovered and this one will just be another report with the same outcome.