Justice Franklyn Holder made absolute, an order quashing a decision of the Police Service Commission to dismiss Assistant Superintendent of Police, Patrice Henry. The decision ended two years of legal wrangling.
Henry, now an attorney at law, was served with a dismissal letter from the PSC in January 2009. The letter stated that his services had been terminated retroactive to December 14, 2005.
It all stemmed from Henry’s completion of his two-year Council of Legal Education programme at the Hugh Wooding law school in Trinidad and Tobago, between 2005 and 2007.
The PSC contended that Henry had not given the requisite permission to pursue the studies, a position that the young attorney was able to make mince meat of in the court.
Henry, in his affidavit to the court, claimed that on September 14, 2005 he was granted approval by the Guyana Police Force under the then Commissioner Winston Felix to proceed on special leave to pursue legal studies in Trinidad and Tobago.
The approval was issued in writing for the academic period 2005 to 2007 and at the time Henry was an Assistant Superintendent on Probation.
Throughout the two-year period, the young officer was in and out of Guyana whenever he had a break from studies to serve as a member of the Guyana Police Force.
All the while Henry was receiving his salary as an Assistant Superintendent of Police on Probation.
But during his last semester at Hugh Wooding, Commissioner Felix resigned and Henry Greene took over as the new head of the Guyana Police Force.
About a week after Greene took over the helm of the Force, the young officer received a letter from Deputy Commissioner Edward Wills, who was in charge of the Force’s administration, indicating that approval had not been granted.
This was despite the documented evidence to the contrary.
Henry, through his then attorney, Vic Puran, had responded to the letter from Wills, stating that his leave was duly approved and his position was no different from the precedent set by other members of the Force including Henry Greene, Gordon Gilhuys, Keith John and Michael Somersal who were all permitted to pursue legal studies while serving as members of the Guyana Police Force.
He argued that in light of this he should be allowed to complete his studies.
Henry argued that Commissioner Greene was a part of the force’s administration that approved his study leave, while he was serving as the Crime Chief.
After completing the Hugh Wooding programme, within the stipulated time, 2007, Henry reported to the Commissioner of Police (Greene), and resumed duty as an officer of the Force.
But a week later, while serving at Cove and John, East Coast Demerara, Henry got the shock of his life when he received a directive from the Commissioner that he should go home and await the appointment of the Police Service Commission which had been defunct for almost two years.
According to Henry, the Commissioner had intimated that his chances of pursuing a career as a police officer would be truncated.
He complied and two years later he received a letter from the now appointed Police Service Commission, which stated that he had been dismissed from the Guyana Police Force with effect from 14 December 2005-that was the day he first returned to Guyana from Hugh Wooding.
The date of his termination surprised him since he was still being treated a s a police officer with full salary up until 2007 when Henry Greene took over as the top cop.
Henry challenged his dismissal on four grounds: (1) It was a breach of natural justice- in that his right to be heard was denied. (2) Ex-facie- the dismissal letter represented an error of record, in that Henry was never absent from duty for the period or date mentioned in his dismissal letter-a position that was never challenged or contradicted. (3) He was never charged for any breach of discipline and that the punitive jurisdiction of the Police Service Commission was never invoked. (4) The Police Service Commission had no jurisdiction to impose the penalty since the rules of the PSC made dismissal subject to grounds (1) and (3).
The Commission had contended that approval for police officers to proceed on study leave must come through the Ministry of Home Affairs, a fact that Henry knew or ought to have known.
As far as the PSC was concerned, approval was not granted for Henry to proceed on study leave and by his actions he had flouted the rules and regulation of the Guyana Police Force.
However on March 25, 2009 Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire issued an order nisi against the PSC, for them to show cause why their decision to dismiss Henry should not be quashed.
Justice Franklyn Holder commenced hearing the matter on November 24, last year, and after careful consideration and due deliberation, he made the order to quash the PSC decision absolute.
In effect the decision to dismiss Assistant Superintendent Patrice Henry is now null and void. The Judge also awarded costs in the sum of $35,000.
Henry, in association with attorney at law Benjamin Gibson, presented his case, while Nareshwar Harnanand represented the PSC and the Attorney General.
There is indication that the State will appeal the decision, which is another landmark one with regards to dismissal from the Guyana Police Force.
The State has also appealed a decision of the court to reinstate Police Sergeant Eon Smith, called ‘Gansta’, who was dismissed after he was accused of overspending his leave.
Another police officer, Simon McBean is before the court, challenging his dismissal from the Force after he pursued a Master’s Degree studies in the United Kingdom.
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