A HIGH COURT judge has granted leave to the wife of the former head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Mark Hernandez, to challenge the failure of the Ministry of National Security to provide information on the setting-up of a committee to audit the police's firearms registry.
In a ruling made in chambers without a hearing, Justice Devindra Rampersad granted leave to Anna-Marie Metivier-Hernandez, who, along with the ex-SORT boss, filed the application for judicial review on May 5.
The two are challenging the legality of the committee appointed to audit the police’s firearms registry and the involvement of a senior officer.
The matter is expected to come up for a hearing on July 6.
Metivier-Hernandez is a firearm dealer and chief executive of MH Tactical Response Group (MH), while Hernandez is an accredited firearm instructor. They also run an approved shooting range in Chaguaramas.
In the application, Metivier-Hernandez said MH had been granted firearm import permits from 2019 until 2022, when the police entered MH’s range without a warrant as part of an “inspection of all ranges in TT.”
She said Snr Supt Wayne Mystar led the exercise. She said he requested several items from her and gave her his personal e-mail address, which she voiced her concern about because he was or is the president of the Trinidad Rifle Association, a rival entity and competitor in the shooting-range industry. She also alleged Mystar also had an accredited firearm training institute and was an instructor similar to MH.
Metivier-Hernandez further alleged there was a threat that MH’s range could be shut down for failing to provide the information. She said the range continued to operate by hosting a shooting championship for the prison service; training for the Defence Force; and training for the police, the cadet force and other competitions authorised by the Commissioner of Police.
Metivier-Hernandez said she received notice in February 2023 of the need for MH to provide a response to certain findings by the audit committee. She said it claimed MH’s range had no authorisation or documentation to operate, mentioned Mystar’s range-inspection exercise and noted that “all range operations be halted pending approval.”
However, Metivier-Hernandez said the police were provided with MH’s lease to operate with the Chaguaramas Development Authority’s approval. It was after receiving this notice from the audit committee that Metivier-Hernandez’s lawyers asked for details of the audit committee from the ministry.
She said the ministry sought several extensions and notice was given of the filing of legal action if a substantive response was not provided.
“I seek this information as my businesses and I face a grave injustice in the prejudicial impact on the business caused by the action and/or conduct of the agents/servants of the State…
“There is strong prima-facie evidence to suggest that the findings of the audit committee have been unlawfully tainted by the information provided from the investigations conducted by Sgt Mystar, who himself is a member of a rival rifle/pistol association and shooting range to that of the applicants.
“No reason was provided for the search of our property and to date there has been no criminal charge or indication of a criminal charge being laid.”
She said she has been left in the dark as to why her company and the range were targeted for investigations and an audit while other entities are being allowed to continue operations without the fear of harassment or victimisation.
Metivier-Hernandez is represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Natasha Bisram, Jared Jagroo and Renuka Rambhajan.