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Court says police exams can go on
A High Court judge has lifted an injunction stopping acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams from holding this year’s promotional examinations for First Division officers. The decision now allows Williams to reschedule the examinations, which were put on hold when the injunction was granted to a group of 16 officers challenging the promotion procedure on February 18, hours after one exam had been held and almost a month before the second.
In discharging the injunction, Justice Ricky Rahim ruled that Williams’ attorneys were able to prove the injunction caused more prejudice to the officers who were not interested in challenging the promotion procedure than to those involved in the lawsuit. “The public interest is to ensure that the commissioner’s functions are not inhibited... the public-interest consideration is of considerable weight,” Rahim said.
The injunction was part of the officers’ substantive judicial review lawsuit in which they contend that a 65 per cent pass mark for examination allegedly instituted by Williams should be declared arbitrary and unlawful as it is incompatible with the Police Service Regulations. The regulations prescribe a two-stage procedure for promotion of first division officers: A written examination and a practical assessment of policing skills.
The officers also contend that Williams failed to inform them of the new pass mark and other criteria used for assessing their promotions. They are also relying on a judgment in a case brought in 2011 by two police inspectors who also challenged the legality of their promotion procedure. In that case another judge, Devindra Rampersad, ruled in June 2012 that the procedure under Regulation 19 of the Police Service Regulations was void and of no effect.
In defence of the claim, Williams’ lawyers submitted that the officers failed to provide tangible evidence that he had in fact instituted a new pass mark. They also said the regulations did not require him to provide the criteria for choosing successful candidates, as the legislation merely said: “Only top-performing candidates will proceed.” In his oral judgment, Rahim said the lack of evidence to support some of the officers was one of his considerations in removing the injunction.
However, he was careful to note that his assessment on the injunction would have no bearing on the substantive case. “Success in this claim does not mean an automatic promotion,” Rahim warned some of the officers, who were present in court. After deciding on the injunction, Rahim gave attorneys a timeline for filing evidence and submissions before reserving June 11 and 12 as dates for the trial.
The officers are being represented by Fitzgerald Hinds and Ken Wright. Russell Martineau, SC, and Gerald Ramdeen appeared for Williams.