Paul Slowe moves to block PSC from promoting Police officers

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Paul Slowe

 

Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Slowe has lodged an action at the Demerara High Court in which he is seeking to block the recently reconstituted Police Service Commission (PSC) from promoting or publishing a promotions list of officers of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

Through his lawyers Dexter Todd and Selwyn Pieters, Slowe, the immediate past Chairman of the PSC, is asking a Judge to grant an injunction restraining the PSC from promoting officers until his legal challenge to President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s June 2021 suspension of the PSC is determined.

In May, the Demerara Full Court upheld a March 9 decision by Justice Gino Persaud that the challenge to the Head of State’s suspension of the constitutional commission can proceed. The respondents in that case, namely the Prime Minister, Attorney General, and Police Commissioner, have filed at the Court of Appeal an appeal against the Full Court’s ruling.

Before Justice Gino Persaud, Nandlall had contended that, given the three-year life of the PSC had expired in August 2021, during the course of Slowe’s challenge, the case was dead, and should be struck out.

In his ruling, however, Justice Persaud had held that the issues raised in the challenge are matters of public interest. Relying on several local, regional, and overseas case laws, he had reasoned that the issue of the legality of the [Commission’s] suspension “…should be heard and determined on its merits, being a matter of public interest.”

To hold otherwise, the Judge had noted, would be to leave the legality of the suspension hanging – never to be adjudicated upon simply because of the inescapable fact that the life of the Commission had come to an end after these proceedings were filed.

“This does not seem to me either logical or fair, but rather an affront to fairness; natural justice; access to justice; and, indeed, the rule of law. A hearing and determination would serve to bring clarity to the role of the Executive in such instances, and ensure that the constitutionally-granted autonomy of the PSC remains protected,” Justice Persaud had reasoned.

In the grounds in support of his new application, Slowe said that on August 9, 2018, he, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Esmond Slowe, and retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Clinton Conway, Vesta Adams, and Claire Jarvis were appointed Commissioners of the PSC by former President David Granger.

According to him, as part of the duties of the PSC, they drafted a list of 132 Police officers to be promoted, and sent it to the PSC’s Secretary to have it sent to then Police Commissioner (ag) Nigel Hoppie for the promotions to be effected. However, Slowe said, the list was never sent to the Secretary, and was leaked to Senior Superintendent (admin) Calvin Brutus and the public.

Then, on June 16, 2021, President Ali “unconstitutionally and illegally” suspended the PSC by sending individual letters of suspension to its Commissioners, Slowe submitted. The promotions list was publicised on June 28, 2021, hours after Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, had dismissed a challenge filed by several senior Police officers who were aggrieved by their non-promotion.

The challenge had delayed the promotion of ranks by more than six months. Later that day, the Government rejected as unlawful and illegal the list of purported promotions.

President Ali had suspended the PSC after its Chairman Paul Slowe and a commissioner, Clinton Conway, were slapped with fraud charges. They, along with other retired and serving members of the GPF, have been implicated in a $10 million fraud over duties delegated to them for revising the Police Force’s raft of Standing Orders. It is alleged that they collected payments amounting to $10 million, but never provided the Force with a raft of revised Standing Orders.

In addition, Slowe is facing three counts of sexual assault. It is alleged that on three occasions in 2019, at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, Georgetown, he sexually assaulted a senior Policewoman by rubbing her left leg and foot without her consent.

The suspension, Slowe added, prompted the Commissioners to file a Fixed Date Application (FDA) seeking, among other things, a declaration that the President’s suspension of the PSC was contrary to, in violation of, and ultra vires the Constitution, and therefore was of no force or effect; an order directing the Commission’s Secretary to prepare formal letters to the ranks named on the official promotions list, informing them of their promotion; and an order nullifying the President’s suspension of the Chairman and members of the Police Service Commission.

The retired cop, in his new case, tells the High Court that he has been advised by his lawyers, and verily believes, that the injunction would assist in preserving the status quo of the pending proceedings. He reasoned that should the injunction be refused, the reconstituted PSC would be allowed to promote officers, causing inevitable difficulty at the end of the pending matter.

“When the promotions from the previous list are effected and those said officers were promoted, the previous list which this matter touches and concerns, especially since from the previous list they may have been promoted, making them eligible for promotion to a higher rank,” he explained. Slowe pointed out, “For example, if a Sergeant was on the previous list promoted to the rank of Inspector, he would be entitled to not be promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent and not be promoted twice on two separate lists as an Inspector.”

The former PSC Chairman further pointed out that if the injunction is not granted, and this matter is subsequently completed and the previous promotions on the past list are effected, there would be inevitable issues as to which officers are of a higher rank than others, if the promotions would be backdated, and there would be future problems as to who will be entitled to be Commanders and even the Commissioner of Police.

Slowe contends that under the Civil Procedure Rules, the High Court has the authority to grant an interim injunction restraining the PSC from promoting members of the GPF until the hearing and determination of the other matter.
On May 31, President Ali swore in the members of the PSC at the Office of the President. They are Attorney-at-Law Mark Conway, businessmen Ernesto Choo-a-Fat and Hakeem Mohammed, and Pastor Patrick Findlay, who will serve as Chairman.

Shortly after the members took the oath of office, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton threatened to take legal action, citing that President Ali was carrying out constitutional duties without engaging him. But the President responded by stating that the development of the country will not be held hostage by political objects.

The PSC is a constitutional body established under Article 137 (1) of the Constitution, and has been given the authority under Article 212(1) subject to the provisions of Article 211 (1) to make appointments to any office in the Police Force of or above the rank of Inspector, and exercise disciplinary control over and to remove persons holding or acting in such offices.