Erla has until tomorrow to reverse position on renewal of FUL’s

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Erla has until tomorrow to reverse position on renewal of FUL’s

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher has been given until tomorrow (Tuesday 6th February) to reverse her position on the renewal of Firearms User Licenses (FUL).

The ultimatum was given by attorneys representing gun owners and dealer Towfeek Ali.

Anand Beharrylal, KC, Kiel Taklalsingh and Nyree Alfonso, wrote to the Commissioner last month informing her that the requirement that all FUL holders renew their permits is not in keeping with the law.

At the start of the year, the CoP announced that all FUL holders, including those who were issued FULs before 2004 when the Firearms Act was amended, have to renew their permits.

In response, the attorneys had originally given Harewood-Christopher until February 1 to respond or face legal challenges.

Referencing Section 17(6) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act, they claimed that FULs granted before passage of the legislation in 2004 remain valid unless terminated or revoked.

However, Head of Legal in the T&T Police Service (TTPS) Allana Rivas told the attorneys in a February 1 letter that the position they adopted was flawed.

Rivas claimed they had read a section of the Act “together with a provision which has been in effect repealed, and (b) relying on a regime which Parliament intentionally deleted from the Act.”

“In our respectful view, section 17(8) must be read together with section 17(6) which was enacted at the same time by the Firearms (Amendment) Act 2004 (“the 2004 Amendment”). The former section 17(6) is no longer law and therefore cannot properly be read together with section 17(8) or treated as continuing to permit FULs of indefinite duration,” she said.

Rivas said if Parliament did not intend that all FULs be renewed, it would have explicitly said so.

“We are therefore of the respectful view that properly construed, sections 17(6) and 17(8) when read together, mean: (a) that all FULs are to have a life of three years from the date of issue and should be renewed every three years if the FUL holder wishes to continue to have a firearm, and (b) in so far as section 17(6) invalidates pre-existing FULs, those FULs would be saved from invalidity after the commencement of the Act.”

She also dismissed claims that the renewal process was akin to making a fresh application.

In her January notices, the CoP called on FUL holders to pay their yearly renewal fees by April. Rivas said there was nothing in the notices that indicated the Commissioner wanted to “disarm lawful FUL holders of their firearms.”

The attorneys said they disagreed with her position and highlighted that some of their concerns were not addressed. They said all those issues would be addressed in subsequent letters.

“Indeed, if your assertion is true, it would mean that there are thousands of hitherto law-abiding citizens currently in possession of firearms and various quantities of ammunition, acquired and retained lawfully by way of compliance with the law/application processes mandated by the Office of the Commissioner of Police for the purpose of obtaining legitimate FULs, but who are now in collective peril of criminal prosecution,” their letter stated.

The attorneys further contended that none of Harewood-Christopher’s predecessors had challenged the laws creating a precedent that if changes are made now, will be chaotic.

“The courts have consistently found on the basis of the overarching principle that there must be legal certainty. If legislation has been applied and interpreted in a particular way consistently over a substantial period, then the courts would not lightly disturb such an interpretation.”

The attorneys gave the TTPS until tomorrow to retract their response and the order for FUL permits granted before 2004 to be renewed.