UNC activist challenges police refusal to permit public march

Victor Roberts. -
Victor Roberts. -

PERMISSION has been granted to UNC activist Victor Roberts to challenge the lawfulness of the Commissioner of Police’s decision to deny him a permit for a public march in December.

On Thursday, Justice Frank Seepersad granted Roberts leave to pursue his judicial review application against the commissioner.

Roberts has also complained about the delay by the top cop in arriving at a decision, and of a failure to provide written reasons, for the refusal to grant the permit.

He is seeking several declarations and damages for breach of freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of association and assembly.

On December 2, Roberts applied for a permit for a march to be held on December 10.

His lawsuit said, having observed what he perceived to be threats to democratic institutions and abuse of public office, he felt the need to organise a public march to express his views through demonstration and protest.

“It was also meant to make the public more aware of these issues and, to that end, it was important to organise and hold this march at the time that these issues were relevant, live and within the public domain and consciousness.”

Roberts’s lawsuit says the Summary Offences Act provides for someone who wants to organise a public march to make an application for permission at least 48 hours before the day it is to take place. That section also sets out what information is required when making the application.

The legislation also provides for a denial of permission if the commissioner considers it is in the interest of public safety and public order. However, the commissioner must provide reasons for refusing permission.

Since Roberts intended to hold three marches on varying dates: December 10; January 7 and January 17, and hand-delivered his application.

Roberts said after making checks with the police, he was asked if the march was being hosted by the UNC and after days of back and forth with the police, which included being told it would cost between $10,000-$12,000, to have officers at the march, he was eventually told on the evening before the first leg that his application was denied.

His attorneys made a formal request for reasons, and the lawsuit also said after he held a news conference at which he and his attorney criticised the police, a news release was issued by the police saying he had been granted conditional approval.

The release also said the police were informed he had cancelled the march.

Roberts's lawsuit said this release contradicted what he was told by the police.

“No permit or conditional approval has been communicated or delivered to the intended claimant to date.”

Roberts also said he was visited by special branch officers.

The lawsuit identified the alleged unlawfulness and disproportionate actions of the police.

Roberts is represented by a team of attorneys including Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, Rhea Khan, Kavita Moonasar and Crystal Singh.


"UNC activist challenges police refusal to permit public march"

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