Bull’s eye!

Police Chief faces contempt of court charges arising from shooters’ lawsuit

Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith today found himself on the other side of the law and blamed it on bungling in the handling of court documents.

Griffith appeared before Justice William Chandler, facing the possibility of being found in contempt of court for defying an interim injunction order to cease and desist from refusing to renew the licences of sport shooters or those licences endorsed with the words “For Target Shooting Only”.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court today, the police chief submitted that he only saw the interim order along with correspondence from Wilfred Abrahams – attorney for the claimant and sports shooter Bernard McDonald Chase – 13 days after it was issued by Justice Chandler on April 23, 2015.

Wilfred Abrahams (second from left), lawyer for sport shooters, leaves the High Court today with client Bernard Chase (left) and assistants Sukeena Maynard and Bryan Weekes.
Wilfred Abrahams (second from left), lawyer for sport shooters, leaves the High Court today with client Bernard Chase (left) and assistants Sukeena Maynard and Bryan Weekes.

Chase, who is spearheading a class action suit against Griffith for refusing to renew the licences of sport shooters in Barbados, had successfully asked the court to put a hold on any further action by the Acting Commissioner in refusing to renew the licences, until the substantive matter was heard.

The claimant wants the court to make a declaration that the decision to stop renewing those licences was in breach of the Fire Arms Act, that the commissioner has no authority to make such a decision and that the previous action was null and void.

But during the committal hearing of the contempt of court case this morning, the sports shooters achieved an apparent unexpected victory when, according to Abrahams, the top cop made a sworn statement that he had ordered the resumption of renewing licences for those involved in sport shooting in Barbados.

Abrahams said even though the notification was not official, he and his client were satisfied with and accepted the statement of the commissioner before the court, therefore removing the licence renewals as a complaint. The attorney however said his client still intended to pursue the substantive matter [the initial refusal to renew] which will be heard on June 8.

Senator Wilfred Abrahams
Attorney-at-law Wilfred Abrahams

“Although the commissioner had started back [renewing licences] . . . , if there was a contempt, if the court finds that there was a contempt or the circumstances pointed to the fact that there was a contempt, that contempt has been purged. But you still need answers as to why the refusal was done in the first place and why it continued even after an order from the court,” emphasized Abrahams, in explaining why he was pushing ahead with the case despite the unofficial victory.

Abrahams said: “The substantive matter was a decision by the Commissioner of Police to stop renewing sporting licences . . .  licences that have stamped on them “Use For Target Shooting Only. Our contention is that was illegal. The Firearms Act clearly specifies and clearly outlines what needs to happen before you could revoke or refuse to renew somebody’s licence.”

The attorney argued that refusing to renew a licence is tantamount to revoking it.  He said the act sets out specific guidelines which have to be followed, including giving the person notice and an opportunity to say why their licences should not be revoked or refused.  “And we are saying that did not happen,” pointed out Abrahams.

He suggested that even if the acting Commissioner had the jurisdiction to take the action he did, the process was not followed. “We are going to present that case to the court. It would be interesting to see what their defence is at the end of the day, because no defence has been filed in the substantive matter as yet.”

Referring to Griffith, the lawyer for the shooters said one cannot willy nilly just decide to depart from following the rule of law or procedures when it suited him. Abrahams said his legal team, which includes Bryan Weekes and Sukeena Maynard, will now study the affidavit lodged by the police chief today and respond if necessary.

In that affidavit, the acting Commissioner further stated that at no time did he willfully determine to defy the interim injunction order, adding that even before the actual document reached him on May 6, he gave a directive to renew the licences, following discussions with the Solicitor General the same day. He recalled in the affidavit that he then launched an investigation into the whereabouts of the documents which were mentioned to him in discussions with the Solicitor General.

Griffith stated that when he inquired of one Acting Station Sergeant K. Norville from the Royal Barbados Police Force registry, the officer confirmed receiving the documents, which he told him he had passed onto the office of the Deputy Commissioner Oral Williams. However, further investigation by the police chief, according to the affidavit, discovered that the deputy was not aware of the documents. After further checks by the deputy, he turned up in the Acting Commissioner’s office with a pile of documents, including the court order, together with correspondence from Abrahams and Jared Richards, attorney in the Solicitor General’s office – both dated April 27, 2015.

“It became apparent to me that there was some bungling as to the handling of the documents; a state of affairs which is sorely regretted.  However, I wish to reiterate that at no time did I willingfully defy the order of this court,” added Griffith’s affidavit.

He denied any threats of arrest or charges were ever leveled at those licence holders by any police officer and no tactics of intimidation were used. “I deny that I have in anyway acted inconsistently with my statutorily appointed role and duties.  I humbly request that this Honourable Court dismiss this application for contempt and refuse the claimant the relief he seeks against me,” concluded the affidavit.


12 Responses to Bull’s eye!

  1. Hunte Omar
    Hunte Omar May 20, 2015 at 1:38 am

    Too many fire arms we need to rid our Country of them.

    • Hunte Omar
      Hunte Omar May 20, 2015 at 2:15 am

      I reside in Barbados not America known for its violence and nasty living. I am sure the Commissioner like me, don’t want Barbados to be like America or even some Caribbean Countries. We need to these Guns from out of our Country.

      • Olutoye Walrond May 20, 2015 at 10:59 am

        It’s easy to adopt a knee-jerk reaction and say let’s ban all guns. The point many miss is that it’s the illegal guns that are responsible for ALL of the gun violence we’ve been having.

        Sports shooting is a legitimate sport. We’ve never had a case of anyone involved in the sports being charged with causing a homocide.

        Why don’t we focus on the real problem.

  2. Sue Donym May 20, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Is it the case that once a licence is issued, it is expected to be renewed ad infinitum, without question? Does the issuing authority not have the ability to delay or deny renewal for a ‘sport shooting’ weapon? These big boys’ toys causing ruction. Just wondering if those knives used to stab/kill victims were stamped with the words “for kitchen use only”

  3. Seth St John
    Seth St John May 20, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Excellent! The law cannot be bent at a police officers whim, and for those who say these firearms are a problem, let me ask you how often you hear of legal gun owners being charged for murder? Illegal guns are a serious problem yes, but you cannot deny someone else their right to Persue what they enjoy.

    • Sue Donym May 20, 2015 at 6:50 am

      @Seth St John: which law are you suggesting was being bent? Does the name Bjerkhamn ring any bells? Have there been any unsolved gun crimes? Is it at all possible that a person holding the office of Commissioner of Police might have good reason to open the licence issue to more scrutiny and that the public’s right to safety could possibly outweigh a shooter’s right to gun play?

  4. Alex Alleyne May 20, 2015 at 6:29 am

    All these GUNS . Why all these guns , and for what ? . Get the rid of them all . They kill people . Take them all to bees recycling and have them crush.

  5. Tony Waterman May 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    @Hunte Omar!!!! You should have been listening to the Draytons Two “Too Late shall be your Cry” the Horse has already left the Barn, Barbados 250.000 Persons, The USA 318.9 Million, PER CAPITA, we are already equal to if not worse than them. (Drugs, Guns, Prostitution, Fraud, Murders etc) it;s all, already prevelant in Bim.
    @Olutoye Walrond!!!! is that not always the case in Barbados ???
    The COP’s Heart was in the right place, but his aim was at the wrong Target. also does he NOT have a Legal assistant, who could have perused the Laws governing Weapons used for Sporting Only, and avoided being made to look like a fool in front of the whole Country??? Clearly there is a Law to be followed which he was either NOT aware of or Foolishly chose to Ignore. This Judgement and apology now puts him in the “scope” of all legal deviants out there.
    @Sue Donym!!!! RE:your first Comment.YES they must be, UNLESS as under the LAW there is a VALID reason NOT to renew that Licence( Weapon Used for some ILLEGAL Purpose) , There is then a LAW and a PROCEDURE that MUST be followed. This was NOT the Case.
    Re; your second Comment, i don’t remember the The COP taking Bjerkhamn’s Gun(s) which were NOT Sports shooting Weapons. The COP Chose to go after the wrong element in Society, there is not one case of gunplay in barbados that can be attributed to weapons that are/were used in Sport Shooting. Gun Crimes around the World have always been MOSTLY Committed with UNLICENCED Guns, as they are NOT easy to Identify.
    In order to Do what the COP wanted to do, The Parliament would have had to make Changes to The Laws Governing Sport Shooting and it’s Weapons, NOT the COP, he has NO such Powers.
    @Alex Alleyne !!!! Show me where and when in Barbados was anyone ever been Shot and Killed with a Gun Licenced as a Sport Shooting Gun.(None)
    Show me where and when in Barbados was someone Shot and killed by someone with an ILLEGAL Gun (Every time) so!!!! which Guns do you think that the COP should have been going after. my suspicion is that the COP was looking for a Statistic to post in the Newspaper of how Many Guns he took off the Street, instead, he has become a Statistic.
    BTW: that inanimate Object called a Gun, does not get up and shoot anyone, it has to be taken, Loaded up, pointed at someone, and the Trigger pulled, by some Scatter Brain FOOL.

  6. Tony Waterman May 20, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    The COP is lucky that the Court ruled against him, Why??? he refused to Issue Licences for these Sports Shooters Guns, But NOWHERE did i see him explain what he was going to do to take possession of all those Guns that would then have become UNLICENCED. his Strategy was Doomed to Failure before he Started, i think that the Court has saved his bacon from a Lawsuite if someone had been killed by one of those then Unlicenced Guns.

  7. dave May 20, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Too many Heads of Govt Departments feel that they have the power to do as they like. The Comptroller of Customs should be the next to face the Courts along with the Vat Commissioner and the BRA Head. The Unions have failed . The NUPW under the last GS and President failed the workers.

  8. dave May 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    This COP should be culpable in the Everton Gittens case too. He allowed Gittens too much slack and look what happen.

  9. panwallie May 20, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    @Seth St. John: there are a lot of ‘big men’ with licensed firearms who go around intimidating other people and you can challenge me on that.

    I hope the Commissioner will take his time to get a team together and conduct a full study, because this entire gun situation cannot be handled in a ad hoc fashion, nor overnight. There must be provision for the issuance of gun licenses in differing categories. If for any good reason renewals and new applications must be put on hold to accommodate the change, then I SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, providing that proper representation is made to/through the correct channels and the requisite permission obtained. We cannot afford to do things willy-nilly, at the same time we should respect and help what is being done for the betterment of this country.


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