The Court of Appeal Thursday reserved judgment in the case of 14 police officers who are claiming that were bypassed for promotions within the Royal Barbados Police Force five years ago.
However, even as the panel of judges led by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson weigh their decision, the lawmen’s attorney is already recommending how they should rule.
In passionate submissions, during which has was asked to use less emotive language, Queens Counsel Ralph Thorne asked the Court to reverse the decision of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and promote the officers, two of whom have since retired.
“This court can do what ought to have been done. We submitted that these officer ought to have been promoted, were it not for the breach of law committed by that commission,” he said, adding that the two retired police officers ought to be awarded damages as well.
“They ought to have retired at a senior rank,” he said, stating that there was no difficulty in calculating their salary had they been promoted, even as he revealed that the remaining 12 lawmen were requesting compensation for the “injury to their professional reputation”.
Thorne argued that there could be “no doubt” that in a matter of such high publicity over the last five years that the public was entitled to believe that there was some “major deficit” with the service records of the officers that disqualified them for promotion.
Therefore, he pleaded with the court to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.
In his three-hour long presentation in the No.1 Supreme Court Thursday morning, Thorne made submissions on 16 of 18 grounds of appeal. The other two grounds were argued on March 22.
The officers are challenging last December’s ruling by Justice Margaret Reifer, who upheld the PSC’s decision to remove their names from the 2012 promotions list, and instead inserted alternative names, without further reference to the then Commissioner of Police.
Thorne charged that the principles of fairness, transparency and justice were not followed by the PSC as stated under the Public Service Act 2007 when it took its “unlawful” decision.
“What has happened is lacking in fairness and transparency and clearly natural justice. You can’t do that,” the senior attorney-at-law said, adding that the PSC’s decision was a “dangerous infraction” with a “simple solution”.
“What makes the infraction so dangerous is that these appellants who spent their lives doing good work were denied promotions,” he stated.
Apart from stating that the High Court judge had erred in law in a number of her judgments, Thorne also strongly castigated the then PSC chairman Sir Trevor Carmichael, accusing him of “the assassination of careers”.
He pointed out that in affidavit evidence given by Sir Trevor, “that gentleman expressed opinions as to the fitness . . . of individual officers . . . . This is a chairman of a commission, a non executive body sitting and assassinating careers in breach of the law,” Thorne said, prompting Justice Andrew Burgess to ask him to temper his language.
He again charged that while the PSC had “considerable powers . . . it had no such power” to alter the list without referring it back to the Commissioner of Police.
The three-member panel, which also included Kaye Goodridge, also heard submissions from Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite, QC, who is representing the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police.
Brathwaite said neither the trail judge nor the claimants in their appeal had found any wrongdoing on the part of her clients and as such any claims being sought by the appellants in the form of damages and cost “ought to be denied by this honourable court”, while appealing for cost to be award to her clients instead, arguing they should not have been parties to the suit.
When attorney-at-law Tariq Khan, who is representing Sir Trevor rose to address the judges he did not speak to his written submissions, saying his arguments were expansive enough.
Following those submissions the judges reserved their decision in the case.