calls for Dottin/Hinds minutes to be made public
Will the minutes of meetings which took place and involved the Police Service Commission (PSC), former Deputy Commissioner of Police Bertie Hinds and the Promotions Advisory Board (PAB) be disclosed or not?
Justice Margaret Reifer has to make a determination of this issue whenever the civil trial stemming from the non-promotion of 14 Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) officers continues.
When the matter continued in Supreme Court No. 2 this morning, attorney-at-law Alair Shepherd QC applied to have the minutes disclosed.
He is representing Sergeant Errol Ellis, one of the 14 officers challenging a decision to remove their names from a recommendation list in 2012 although they were up for promotion.
The PSC is responsible for ratifying promotions within the RBPF. According to Sir Trevor Carmichael Q.C., who was chairman of the PSC in 2012, the body held a meeting with Hinds on June 6 and one with the PAB on June 19.
Earlier this week, Carmichael testified that he was unable to divulge any information about either meeting without the Governor General’s permission, which he had
Shepherd stated that the Act under which the PSC head said he was bound to non-disclosure, was Section 9 of the Service Commission Act. He went on to argue, though, that the Act does not allow for disclosure of oral or written communication taking place between the PSC or any of its members and the Government, the Governor General or his personal staff.
He contended that neither Hinds nor the PAB was covered by the section since they do not fall under any of the three categories; therefore, information of any meeting taking place with a third party could be divulged. He therefore requested that the minutes from both June 2012 meetings be produced during the trial since, in his view, they would be “critical to the fair determination of the issues in this case”.
Asked about his “late” application for disclosure, the senior attorney said, “Up and until the examination of Sir Trevor, we were not aware they were minutes”.
However, since Carmichael had disclosed “the existence of minutes” Shepherd felt that it was “now open to counsel to ask for their production” since “the rules do not preclude
a later application”.
Attorney for the PSC, Tariq Khan, referred to Sir Trevor’s affidavit which Shepherd’s office received and stamped since August 2012.
He further recalled that the Queen’s Counsel had noted at one point, when the matter was before former Justice Elneth Kentish, that disclosure might become an issue and had spoken of his intention to make an application.
Khan submitted that “every opportunity was given throughout the case management stages” of the matter. He therefore contended that Shepherd had ample time to make an earlier application.
Ralph Thorne QC supported Shepherd’s application. He said Carmichael’s evidence was the first expression that written correspondence existed between Hinds and the PSC.
“Is it in the interest of justice to exclude or disclose those communications?” asked Thorne, who is representing Superintendent Jeddar Robinson who has since retired, as well as Assistant Superintendents Elphene Moore, Vernella Wiltshire, Richard Boyce, Antonio Forte and John Maxwell, Inspectors Elliott Bovell, Barry Hunte, Trevor Blackman and Roderick Walcott, Station Sergeants Sonia Boyce and Vernon Moore, and Sergeant Noel Moore.
Adding that the communications “go to the heart of this matter,” Thorne felt that the PSC should not even have been corresponding with Hinds in 2012, “beyond the reach” of the Commissioner
of Police, while Hinds himself was Deputy Commissioner.
Referring to Carmichael’s testimony that the Commission had “to deal with Hinds on no less than 13 occasions”, Thorne submitted that Shepherd’s request for disclosure was “to see whether the correspondence pertained to promotions or discipline”.
Jared Richards, who appeared for the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police, said that even though the communication “does not touch” his case, he was in agreement that the Act “precludes the disclosure of communications by statue”. He added that the PSC was not only prohibited from disclosing but would suffer sanctions if it disclosed any information.
Shepherd rose to inform the court that the ruling needed to be made before the matter could proceed, since it would affect the next witness, former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin, whom he intended to question about his meetings with the PSC.
Taking into consideration the Court’s vacation and the availability of attorneys involved, the matter was adjourned for a date to be fixed.
Donna Brathwaite QC, who was not present today, is also representing the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General. Jennivieve Maynard is also appearing on behalf of Errol Ellis in association with Shepherd.