The Court of Appeal today adjourned until May 18 its hearing of an appeal brought by attorney-at-law Ralph Thorne, QC, on behalf of 14 police officers who claim they were bypassed for promotions five years ago within the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
The adjournment came after a very passionate Thorne apologized to Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, and Justices Andrew Burgess and Kaye Goodridge in the No.1 Supreme Court for allowing his emotions to run high during his five-hour long submission on behalf his clients, who he said were still struggling for the dignity and the right of promotion, after their names were removed from a 2012 list of officers submitted by the then Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin for higher rank.
“I do not see how the law can be comfortable with a situation . . . to permit an errant Police Service Commission on a wild expedition … to deny a man or woman promotion,” said Thorne, while stressing, “there is no excuse for this, none whatsoever!”
“This is unfair, it is wrong . . . . It is nasty business conducted by the Police Service Commission in relation to legitimate aspirations and legitimate expectations,” he said, with six of the officers present.
During his presentation which began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 1;30 p.m. today, with Thorne only giving “expansive” arguments on just two of his 18 grounds of appeal, the attorney further contended that there was nothing in the law to justify the actions of the “audacious” Police Service Commission.
He also maintained that his clients had given honourable service and that “not a man has found anything wrong with them”. However, he pointed out that since that PSC’s decision, several posts had become vacant in the RBPF, including 43 for the rank of Station Sergeant, 28 for the post of Inspector and 14 for Assistant Superintendent of Police and yet his clients were not deemed worthy for elevation.
“What is their future for their presence [here]. . . . [Are they] at risk of being bypassed because [they have] come to a court of law searching for justice?” he asked in view of last December’s ruling by Justice Margaret Reifer, who upheld the PSC’s removal of the 14 officers’ names from the 2012 promotions list and its insertion of its own list of names, without further reference to the then Commissioner of Police.
However, based on established practice under the Police Promotions Regulations 1998, the Queen’s Counsel argued that the PSC had acted outside of its remit. He also contended that Reifer had seriously erred last December in throwing out his clients’ legal challenge to that decision.
“It looks wrong, it smells wrong, it feels wrong,” he argued.
Attorney-at-law Tariq Khan is representing the Police Service Commission, while Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite, QC, and Jared Richards are representing the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General in the appeal.
Thorne is due to continue with his argument when the matter resumes.