Despite High Court ruling …”HAROLD PHILLIP TO BE TOP COP”

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Despite a High Court ruling which attacked his credibility, Harold Phillip has been recommended by the Police Service Commission (PSC) to be the next Commissioner of Police.

The PSC submitted the name to President Paula Mae Weekes who sent the notice to Parliament for debate.

Phillip had been the choice of this Government all along although Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said recently the Government was backing no horse in the race. The Government did not want acting Commissioner Stephen Williams, neither the PSC’s original choice, Deodat Dulalchan.

Government, through Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, wanted Phillip, a Tobagonian.

During the entire process, Phillip has remained silent, offering no comment on the debacle involving Dulalchan.

But whenever the debate starts in Parliament, the Opposition is certain to raise the High Court judgment delivered in 2016.

On March 15, 2016, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that Phillip acted reckless when he arrested policeman Harridath Maharaj and laid two charges against him arising out of the illegal felling of trees.

Maharaj claimed impropriety by political office holders was responsible for the charges being laid against him. Phillip did not seek any advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) when he laid the charges against Maharaj. Maharaj was awarded over $300,000 compensation for the malicious prosecution.

The matter involving Phillip stemmed from an incident in 2004 when Maharaj was arrested and charged for the illegal felling of trees during his investigation of the same matter.

In November 2007, the charges were eventually dismissed and Maharaj sued the State claiming he was framed. Phillip, then an assistant superintendent of police, was the complainant in the matter.

Seepersad slammed Phillip for his conduct in the investigation of the case. Seepersad deemed the decision to charge Maharaj as fundamentally flawed as there was not enough evidence present.

He added, “Given the factual matrix in this case and given that the (Phillip) was at the time an Assistant Superintendent of Police, a more thorough investigation should have been conducted prior to the institution of the charges.”

Seepersad said there were glaring gaps and deficiencies in the evidence in the case. “An officer with the seniority that Phillip had at the time, should have exercised a greater degree of caution and should have conducted a more in-depth and detailed investigation.

“There is also no evidence to suggest that any advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was sought prior to the institution of the charges.”

Seepersad said it also seemed irregular that a memorandum issued by a permanent secretary from a government ministry was sufficient to initiate an investigation.

The judge continued, “The court also noted that another senior officer Mohammed was conducting investigations but no reason was ever advanced as to why he was removed and why (Phillip) was assigned to the instant matter. The circumstances that operated in this case raises issues of concern given that this memorandum resulted in the arrest of an officer who was conducting his own investigation into alleged illegal activity involving officers attached to the Forestry Division which fell under the purview of the very Ministry from which the memorandum emanated.”

Seepersad warned that the Police Service must guard itself from actual or perceived political influence. He said, “The Police Service must always jealously guard its processes from actual or perceived political influence and given the allegations that were made by (Maharaj) of alleged impropriety by political office holders, greater care should have been exercised by Officer Phillip.

“Police officers are vested with the trust of the citizenry and they must always ensure that their duties are discharged without bias, favour or ill will. (Phillip) acted without reasonable and probable cause and the court can and does infer malice and finds that in preferring the charges against (Maharaj), (Phillip) was actuated by malice.
Accordingly the court finds that (Maharaj) was maliciously prosecuted and he is entitled to receive an award of damages.”

Seepersad ruled that Phillip did not undertake a full and comprehensive investigation into the matter.

“The facts upon which the charges against (Maharaj) were premised were fundamentally flawed and deficient and officer Phillip’s decision to charge Maharaj without the requisite evidence that was necessary so as to form a reasonable belief in the guilt of the Phillip, was in the circumstances reckless,” the judge declared.

However, Phillip will have to wait much longer as the Government feels that the process used by the PSC was flawed.

On Tuesday, Leader of Government Business, Camille Robinson-Regi,s disclosed that a new notification for the appointment of a Commissioner of Police had come to the Parliament.

The notification was not listed on the House Order Paper.

Robinson-Regis said recommendations coming out of that flawed process, cannot and will not be accepted. In her capacity as Leader of Government Business, Robinson-Regis said, “I have instructed the Clerk that this matter not be proceeded with.”

Chaguanas West Ganga Singh objected that this was a subversion of the Constitution. Singh refused to withdraw this remark when Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George advised him to do so and instead packed his briefcase and stormed out of the Chamber.

Robinson-Regis said the constitution states the President shall issue a notification in respect of each person nominated. That person is not the President’s nominee and the President serves as a conduit.

Robinson-Regis said, “It is very likely that during the recess the Clerk will make copies of the notification to all members.”

Notification is here

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