A High Court judge has ruled against a decision of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to reduce a soldier’s rank from sergeant to corporal because of two military charges.
Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that the CDS erred in law and procedure to reduce the rank of Kurt Marcelle in 2019.
The judge also ruled that the decision of the CDS to omit Marcelle’s name from the list of soldiers recommended for promotion to the rank of staff sergeant in favour of those junior to him was “unreasonable, irrational, and against the principles of natural justice.”
Rampersad quashed the decision to reduce Marcelle’s rank to corporal and ordered that he be reinstated to the higher rank of sergeant and put on the list of those individuals eligible to be promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
According to the evidence the judge considered, Marcelle was the orderly officer coming off duty at Camp Omega in Chaguaramas when he allowed another soldier, the storeman, to leave early because of a family emergency.
He received the keys to the camp’s armoury and bulk stores from the private and waited for the incoming storeman to report for duty.
Marcelle handed over the keys and left camp. During this time, a service pistol was discovered missing from the armoury which was not found.
Marcelle appeared before his commander on charges of neglect by way of failing to conduct a proper handover of the detachment stores and disobedience to the standing orders.
His punishment was “severe reprimand” and it was recommended that his rank be reverted.
His attorney Arden Williams argued after he was found guilty and punished with “severe reprimand,” it was not open to the CDS to order a revision of his rank.
In his ruling, Rampersad said even if the CDS’s decision to revert his rank was valid, this should have been returned to him after a six-month period which would not have affected his prospects for promotion.
“Quite clearly, the intention was to make the claimant an example by extending the extent of the punishment beyond the allowed reprimand and seek further punishment as a deterrent not just for him but for others.”
Rampersad also found that without full and frank disclosure by the CDS on the decision-making process, the only evidence the court had before it was that the recommendation to reduce Marcelle’s rank was made by others not delegated with any decision-making power as he “seemed to have relied” on recommendations of others.
Rampersad also ordered the CDS to pay Marcelle’s costs. Also representing him was attorney Mariah Ramrattan while Andre Cole, Zara Smith, Chantelle Le Gall and Adana Hosang represented the CDS.