The Court of Appeal today has upheld a High Court Judge’s ruling which refused the application for a Judicial Review brought by 14 police officers who had challenged their omission from a promotions list after their names had been first submitted under the Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin.
In the Appeal decision, the justices found “no basis for quarrel” with the actions of the Police Service Commission (PSC) in including and removing names. In fact, they suggested that the PSC was within its rights to carry on investigations with respect to points of law in the Police (Promotions) Regulations and as discord was evident in the “senior hierarchy”.
“In light of the misgivings held by the PSC, and the evidence of discord within the senior hierarchy, the only way the PSC could ensure fairness to all candidates was to embark on a consideration of all of them before coming to a decision for recommendations to the Governor General.”
Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne represented the appellant officers while Donna Brathwaite and Jared Richards appeared on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, PSC and Attorney General. Justices of Appeal, former Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, the Honourable Andrew Burgess and the Honourable Kaye Goodridge ruled on the matter.
Regarding the basis of the appeal, the officers suggested there was interference in the promotion process and specifically questioned why the PSC failed to recommend their promotion to the Governor General.
They asked for the decision and orders of the judge to be reversed and/or set aside and called for declarations that the officers were entitled to be appointed to the rank they were recommended for by the Commissioner.
In COP Dottin’s evidence, he said after he submitted the promotions to the PSC in 2012, he received notice of those approved. However, he realised 21 variations to the list and several omissions though he was never “consulted nor afforded the opportunity to discuss these omissions and inclusions”.
Evidence suggested there was discord between Dottin and his deputy Bertie Hinds and the PSC ended up with two recommendation lists from both senior lawmen.
Nineteen grounds of appeal were lodged, including the judge’s errors in relation to points of law regarding legitimate expectation and the evaluation of evidence with respect to the PSC.
It was argued that the trial judge failed to accept evidence on the law, procedure and established practice pertaining to the process of promotions within the force.
The appellants, according to the grounds, submitted that the judge failed to consider the evidence of the COP and AG “as to the requirement in law, procedure and established practice for consultation between the PSC and COP in the event of further query by the PSC as to the matter of persons recommended for promotions…”
They further argued that the judge erred in finding that the PSC has power to carry out investigations separate and apart from the recommendations of the COP and that they were bound by practice in the conduct of communications pertaining to the matter on promotions.
The appeal decision looked at the strained relationship between Dottin and Hinds resulting in the two lists. The PSC had also not received recommendations for the entire year of 2011. It was clear, according to the appeal judges, that the PSC had “lost confidence” in the integrity of getting recommendations to them and were faced with “a dilemma”.
The issue for the court was whether the PSC had power to review the candidates.
The court looked at the provisions of section 13 of the Police (Promotions) Regulations which gives the COP the task of providing a list of recommendations for promotion to the PSC. However, section 7 gives the PSC power to call on assistance in determining any matter. (TS)