High Court throws out officers’ challenge against Police Service Commission’s promotion refusal

Last Updated on Monday, 28 June 2021, 15:09 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Monday ruled against several officers of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) who had challenged the refusal of the Police Service Commission to promote them because they have pending disciplinary matters.

“There is nothing unlawful in considering disciplinary matters in the determination of whether the applicants should be promoted. Therefore, the declarations and certiorari sought cannot be granted,” she said. Further, she said the High Court could not order the Police Service Commission (PSC) to reconsider its decision to promote the applicants.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Calvin Brutus, Deputy Superintendent Ravindra Stanley, Superintendent Shivpersaud Bacchus, Inspector Prem Narine, Assistant Superintendent Shevon Jupiter had been recommended by the Police Commissioner for promotion in November 2020 but the PSC refused to do so. Those officers also challenged in the High Court the PSC’s decision to promote Senior Superintendent Edmond Cooper, Senior Superintendent Phillip Azore, Senior Superintendent Kurleigh Simon, Senior Superintendent Marcia Washington, Superintendent Carol Harding, Superintendent Dennis Stephens, Superintendent Walter Stanton, Superintendent Crystal Robinson, Superintendent Hugh Winter, Inspector Marlon Kellman and Inspector Collette Evans.

Only Officers Cooper, Azore, Simon, Washington, Winter and Robinson filed affidavits.

The Chief Justice said that, while the High Court could not order certain actions be taken, she frowned on the promotions process in the Police Force and called for a revamp the “poor and haphazard system” to deal with disciplinary matters. “The circumstances that have led to these applications are most unfortunate to say the least. They do not augur well for the overall management and ell-being of the Guyana Police Force.  The determination of these applications will not assuage what are clearly deep-seated feelings of distrust and mistrust in the higher echelons of the force

Mdme. George-Wiltshire said the officers do not have a right to be heard by the PSC before a decision is made on whether to promote them. “Declarations cannot be granted that the applicants are entitled to be heard prior to a decision of the commission denying their promotions nor are they entitled to be heard on a any reconsideration of the matter. To so order, would be to impose a right to be heard before promotion in circumstances where there is no right to be promoted,” she said.

The Chief Justice said she could not scrap the promotions of Officers Cooper, Azore and Simon because there was insufficient evidence to grant this relief.

It is unclear what are the implications of the Chief Justice’s decision since President Irfaan Ali has suspended the PSC.

The judge also said Acting Deputy Commissioner Calvin Brutus had written self-serving letters against Officers Cooper, Azore and Simon and more so there was a “paucity of evidence” to prove that they had been the subject of disciplinary proceedings. “There is no evidence t counter that of the challenged officers who have filed affidavits that they are unware of the allegations made against them,” the Chief Justice said.

The Chief Justice further stated that the High Court could not order the Police Service Commission (PSC) to overturn its promotion decisions because that would  mean going into an “excursion” and investigation of the circumstances which the court was not empowered to do.

The PSC had refused a recommendation by the Police Commissioner to promote officers Brutus, Prem Narine and Shivpersaud Bacchus  because of pending disciplinary matters. The Chief Justice, however, noted that officers with pending disciplinary matters must be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time in keeping with Guyana’s constitution.

The Court also ruled that there was insufficient evidence to nullify the promotion of the challenged officers. According to the Chief Justice, those with pending disciplinary matters are entitled to be presumed innocent