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…court rules nothing unlawful with PSC’s decision
By Svetlana Marshall
An attempt by five senior police officers to overturn the decision of the Police Service Commission (PSC) not to promote them on the basis that they are embroiled in disciplinary matters failed on Monday when Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George ruled that the decision of the Commission is well within the confines of the law.
“…there is nothing unlawful in considering disciplinary matters in a determination of whether the applicants should be promoted. Therefore, the declarations in Certiorari sought in this regard cannot be granted,” the Chief Justice (ag) said as she handed down her decision in the High Court on Monday in the case – Calvin Brutus-v-Police Service Commission.
Last December, Brutus along with Superintendents Ravindra Stanley and Shivpersaud Bacchus; Assistant Superintendent Shavon Jupiter; and Inspector Prem Narine challenged the decision of the Police Service Commission not to heed to the recommendations of the Commissioner of Police for them to be promoted. Added to that, Brutus also sought to nullify the decision of the Commission to promote Edmond Cooper, Philip Azore and Kurleigh Simon – Senior Superintendents of Police – to the office of Assistant Commissioner of Police on the basis that they too have disciplinary matters but on Monday, the Chief Justice (ag) said that there was insufficient evidence to bar such promotions.
“Apart from the fact that some of the officers affected are not before the Court, in the absence of definitive evidence in support of the claims made by the applicants about the disciplinary allegations they have made against the challenged officers to so hold would be to make an arbitrary decision and breach the right of the challenged officers to a fair hearing,” Chief Justice George said.
In arriving at her decision, the Chief Justice (ag) examined five (5) substantive issues, among them, whether the Police Service Commission had a duty to conclude the investigation regarding the allegations against Brutus and others expeditiously.
In this regard, Chief Justice (ag) George pointed out that apart from Superintendent Bacchus, the other four officers have pending disciplinary matters. She noted that Section 5(1) of the Police Discipline Act provides for every allegation to be investigated as soon as practicable. “The purposes of having investigations done as soon as practicable would be in conformity with the Constitutional tenet as provided for in Article 144 of the Constitution that makes a fair hearing within a reasonable time a fundament right. It is therefore to be expected that there would be reasonable expediency in the conduct of the disciplinary proceedings against the officers affected, more so as it is known that there is a policy that such proceedings can stymie an officer’s prospects of promotion,” the Chief Justice (ag) reasoned. Against this background, she said the Commission must, as a matter of policy, expeditiously address disciplinary matters involving officers under its purview.
That aside, Brutus and the other applicants, through their Attorney, argued that they had a legitimate expectation to be promoted based on an established practice, in which the Commission relies on the recommendations of Police Commissioner. However, Chief Justice (ag) George said though making this claim, the applicants failed to provide the requisite evidence. She noted that the Police Service Commission is not bound to act on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police.
“The applicants have not provided evidence to indicate that there is a settled practice that an officer will be promoted based on the fact that his or her name is on the recommended promotion list,” the Chief Justice (ag) said while adding that “a person may be entitled to be considered for promotion but is not entitled to be promoted.”
Further, the Chief Justice (ag) said that Brutus’ application seeks to override a policy regarding consideration of disciplinary matters in the context of promotions. “It will be a major usurpation of the powers and authority of the Commission for the Court to rule in such a sweeping fashion that one of the four constitutional commissions – the others being the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission, which are responsible for employment including discipline must ignore disciplinary matters against officers when considering their suitability for promotion. To do so would be to fly in the face of the expressed authority given to the Commissions pursuant to Article 212 to address issues of discipline for persons falling under their purview,” the Chief Justice (ag) explained.
In conclusion, Chief Justice (ag) George said the evidence presented before the Court clearly indicates that there is discord among officers within the Guyana Police Force while noting that there is need for conciliation.
Moments after the High Court handed down its ruling the Police Service Commission, headed by Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe, released the Guyana Police Force’s Promotions List, though suspended by President Irfaan Ali.