Trinidad Express:– POLICE Commissioner Gary Griffith may find himself facing contempt of court proceedings or even a possible jail term if he fails to carry out a High Court order which was issued last October.
“Ultimately, it would serve this court no pleasure in sending the commissioner to that other place called ‘GG’ which is Golden Grove. Please ensure this does not unfold,” said Justice Frank Seepersad to the commissioner’s attorneys today.
The judge made the comment during the hearing of a matter filed by a former police officer who was asked to repay the State close to $.5 million that was paid to him over the course of three years while on injury leave.
Last October, Justice Seepersad ruled in favour of retired Cpl Ashram Pariagsingh, ordering that he not be made to pay back the monies.
The legal battle between him and the Office of the Commissioner of Police arose after former commissioner Stephen Williams reclassified Pariagsingh’s injury from leave with pay, to sick leave without pay.
Based on court documents, Pariagsingh was stationed at the La Brea Police Station on May 8, 2012. While making checks at the back of the station, he slipped and fell on a wet slippery floor during which he sustained injuries.
The police human resource department asked Pariagsingh to continue submitting medical certificates and informed him he would continue to receive his salary since his time off would be classified as injury leave.
However, three years later, on October 22, 2015, he was told he would have to repay the salary he had received for the period. In March 2016, he was informed that as a result of the reclassification of his injury leave as sick leave without pay, the salary paid to him, $436,539.10, would be deducted from his back pay and gratuity.
It was following this that Pariagsingh filed a claim for judicial review against the decision.
Last October, Justice Seepersad ruled in Pariagsingh’s favour. But since then, the Office of the Commissioner of Police has failed to reclassify his time off from work as injury leave with pay.
Based on this failure, Pariagsingh’s attorneys filed an application at the High Court seeking to have contempt proceedings be brought against the commissioner.
At the hearing which took place at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, Justice Seepersad said he was finding it difficult to understand why such a simple and straightforward order was taking such a lengthy time to be effected.
Attorneys for the commissioner explained that the order “took some time” to get to the commissioner’s office and asked that they be given until the end of March for the order to be effected.
However, the judge again questioned why so much time was needed to carry out a simple administrative task. He refused to grant the State until the end of next month to remedy the situation, and instead granted 14 days.
If the issue is not corrected by that time, contempt proceedings will be initiated against Griffith.
He said while it is evident that the office of the commissioner is critical in curtailing the “cancer of criminality” that confronts all citizens, it is also tasked extensive with administrative functions.
“The hands on approach and operational involvement of the commissioner in furtherance of a focused and resolute mandate to curb the unacceptable escalation of crime, cannot go unapplauded. The office however, carries with it extensive administrative functions which must also be discharged with adeptness, adroitness, alacrity and aplomb. Whiie it is readily acknowledged that the demands of the office are significant, there can be no justification for the failure to comply with mandatory orders of the court.
“Consequently, having regard to the antecedent circumstances which prevailed in this case and having noted the date of the judgment issued, this court, in the discharge of its mandate to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, hereby orders and directs that the commissioner of police shall comply with the judgment issued and must reclassify the claimant’s leave within 14 days of today’s date . This mandatory order shall be endorsed with a penal notice so as to convey with absolute clarity, the court’s intent to treat with the issue of contempt, should there be continued non compliance,” said the judge.
Pariagsingh was represented by attorney Anand Ramlogan, SC, Alvin Pariagsingh (no relation) and Ganesh Saroop.