Judge to rule on challenge to top cop's extension in November

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher - FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB
Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher - FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB

IN November, a High Court judge will deliver his decision in the lawsuit filed by UNC activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj challenging the one-year extension granted to Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher.

Justice Ricky Rahim has set November 21 for the delivery of his decision.

Maharaj was given permission to pursue his lawsuit against the Cabinet and the Attorney General. He has complained that days before Harewood-Christopher turned 60 on May 15, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds announced that the Cabinet had agreed to extend her term by a year under Section 75 of the Police Service Act.

The legislation empowers the President to extend the term of a first division officer, who is due to retire, and the Police Commissioner to extend the term of second division officers under her command.

Maharaj is contending that the provision is inconsistent with Section 123 of the Constitution, which gives the PSC the power to recommend the appointment or removal of the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) to be approved by the House of Representatives.

"The Commissioner of Police would in effect be beholden to the Government which is responsible for renewing her contract every twelve months," the lawsuit contends.

It also criticised her performance, saying the “country is drowning in blood, murder, and mayhem when the constitutional guarantee of the right to life, liberty and the enjoyment of one's property has been compromised.”

Harewood-Christopher became commissioner on February 3.

In subsequent court filings, Maharaj responded to affidavits from Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) Corey Harrison, on behalf of the Police Service Commission, and Minister in the Office of Prime Minister Stuart Young, who is also Energy Minister, and a member of the Cabinet’s National Security Council.

Maharaj said Harrison’s affidavit alluded that the PSC was not consulted on the extension.

“Even if the commission was not pleased with the performance of the commissioner after one month in office, it had no opportunity in light of the stance of the first defendant, to voice any objection to an extension of the service.”

In response to Young’s affidavit, Maharaj maintained that Harewood-Christopher was an “abysmal failure in office.”

“Murders continue to increase and there has been a marked increase in home invasions as well, especially against elderly victims,” his affidavit filed Wednesday said.

“Changing the paint colour on the exterior of the house does not mean that all the fixtures on the interior are working fine.”

In his affidavit, Young defended Harewood-Christopher’s extension, saying it was done in the “national and public interest.”

He provided statistics from the police's crime and problem analysis branch on serious crimes and detection rates for 2012-2023.

Young also said, “It is incorrect that the TTPS’s crime prevention strategies are failing or that Ms Harewood Christopher’s tenure has been an abysmal failure.”

He said some anti-crime initiatives have led to some gains for the police, including the seizure of 356 illegal firearms; 9,264 rounds of assorted ammunition, 427 kilos of marijuana and 178 kilos of cocaine including one of the biggest cocaine seizures with a street value of $234 million.”

Young also said 625 suspects were arrested for firearm and ammunition possession; 651 suspects for housebreaking, larceny and robbery offences and 476 for other serious crimes.

“Forty-seven persons were charged with homicides and 51 murders were solved in 2023 with 31 of those murders having been committed in 2023.”

Young highlighted some of the initiatives implemented by the commissioner since her appointment and repeated what she said in her pre-recorded statement in July.

In his affidavit, Harrison said Harewood-Christopher was placed first on the order of merit list in January and the PSC was aware of her age when it nominated her for the top cop post.

He said the PSC was also aware of section 75 of the Police Service Act and the possibility it could be invoked as had been done with former commissioners James Philbert and MacDonald Jacob.

He said on June 5, the PSC noted that Cabinet had agreed to extend her service for one year to May 14, 2024, and received a copy of the Legal Notice giving effect to it.

“The commission continues to have jurisdiction over Mrs Harewood-Christopher as Commissioner of Police under the provisions of section 123 of the Constitution, including the power to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the discharge of her functions, prepare an annual performance appraisal report, exercise disciplinary control and remove from office.”

Maharaj is represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Kent Samlal, Robert Abdool-Mitchell, Natasha Bisram, and Vishaal Siewsaran.

The Cabinet is represented by Russell Martineau, SC, Dominique Martineau and Murvani Ojah-Maharaj. Representing the PSC, as an interested party, are Deborah Peake, SC, and Adana Hosang.


"Judge to rule on challenge to top cop’s extension in November"

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