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CoP avoids jail for contempt
Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday avoided a possible jail term in contempt of court proceedings brought against him by a suspended officer.
Williams appeared before Justice David Harris in the San Fernando High Court to explain why he should not be held in contempt for failing to obey Harris’ order last July to promote Cpl Billy Ramsundar to the rank of sergeant.
In that matter, the State conceded that an administrative error resulted in Ramsundar not being awarded his correct promotion score. The state, therefore, entered into a consent order in which it agreed to publish a revised Order of Merit List and adjust Ramsundar’s placement higher in accordance with his correct score. Harris also ruled that Ramsundar was treated unfairly and ordered Williams to promote him with retroactive effect.
Following the CoP’s failure to comply with the order, Ramsundar filed an application for contempt of court. At a previous hearing of the contempt matter on June 14, the judge ordered that Williams appear before him to explain why he failed to obey his order.
Dressed in his police uniform yesterday, Williams, together with Inspector Lucien Ferguson from the police legal department, appeared in court. Through his attorneys Brenston Francois and Ryanka Ragbir, Williams explained that Ramsundar was subsequently placed on suspension as a result of a criminal charge. The attorneys also submitted that following that ruling, another court granted an injunction blocking promotions within the police service.
Harris, however, noted that his order had pre-dated Ramsundar’s charge and the injunction and it must be obeyed.
Ramsundar’s attorney, Anand Ramlogan SC, submitted that the court must protect the integrity of the administration of justice and ensure compliance with the order. He said Ramsundar is innocent until proven guilty and urged the court to ensure he was promoted with retroactive effect. Following discussions between the parties, Williams agreed to promote Ramsundar by Monday with retroactive effect and pay him all his arrears of salary and other entitlements. The CoP also agreed to pay Ramsundar’s legal costs.
Speaking afterwards, Williams said around the same time the order was made to promote Ramsundar another court granted an injunction blocking promotions.
“We just had to comply with whatever the court says, if one court says this and next court so that my job is just to comply,” he said.
Ramsundar, however, said it was more than just a personal victory, as there were many officers who are being unfairly denied promotions and suffering. He said he hoped this matter would serve as a wake-up call to other officers, adding officers become demoralised when their career advancement is frustrated. Ramsundar is before the Siparia Magistrates Court charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and malicious damage of a Canon camera following an alleged attack on T&T Guardian photographer Kristian De Silva outside A&V Oil and Gas Drilling on September 15 at Nazim Avenue, San Francique, Penal.
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