December 13th 2023 is now the date set aside for the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal over a move to lay the executive summary of an audit into firearm user’s licences (FULs) issued between 2016 and 2021 in Parliament.
The appeal was originally set to be heard yesterday, but was adjourned to December.
This means that the injunction restraining the Prime Minister and the National Security Council (NSC) from laying an executive summary of a report on an audit into the police firearms registry in Parliament remains in force a little longer.
In March, Justice Devindrra Rampersad ruled that the controversial report, or any part of it, cannot be laid in Parliament but should only be provided to the present commissioner and the Police Service Commission.
However, he did rule that Dr Keith Rowley and the members of his Cabinet, who form the NSC, had the power to appoint the committee to audit and investigate the grant of firearms by the police over the period 2016 to 2021.
Former Commissioner Gary Griffith had complained about the legality of the setting up of the committee by Dr Rowley and his NSC to investigate the police’s firearms department licensing regime, its operations, and the issuance of FULs.
The former top cop, who held the post from 2018-2021, said he was concerned that the contents of the report and the process used by the committee – comprising of retired police officers – were irretrievably tainted by bad faith and illegality because the Prime Minister had no power to appoint such a committee. He also cited statements Dr Rowley made after Griffith announced the launch of his political party and his decision to reapply to be top cop.
Griffith said he feared publication of the report, or any part of it, would expose him to public ridicule and if laid in Parliament, would protect Rowley and the media by qualified or absolute privilege from defamation claims for damages.
The Prime Minister and the NSC was ordered to pay 50 per cent of Griffith’s legal costs.
In a written ruling on who should pay for the partial success of the lawsuit filed by Griffith in October last year, Rampersad said while the challenge to the propriety of the audit report failed, it was not unreasonable to have brought the claim.