EDITORIAL: Starting all over, again

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Retired Commissioner of Police Rawlston Pompey has given his take on the most recent suspension of the current Commissioner of Police Wendel Robinson by the seven-member Police-Service Commission (PSC).  In a blunt assessment of what he described as a “sordid affair”, Mr. Pompey is of the opinion that PSC members are in contempt of court following the ruling of High Court Justice Godfrey Smith.
It is extremely easy to get lost in all the manoeuvres surrounding this affair, so we will give the short, layman’s version as we understand it. Wendel Robinson was suspended based on allegations against him regarding the proper execution of his duties. He challenged the suspension in the High Court and was successful. Justice Smith ruled that his suspension was unlawful and that the commissioner should be reinstated.  Soon after that, within hours of the judgement, Robinson was suspended again.  
The first reaction by a lot of people was confusion. They asked, how could Robinson be suspended before he was reinstated? Well, we have been advised that the Court ruling made his suspension null and void and his reinstatement automatic. Any action by the PSC in accordance with the ruling would simply be a formality.
(Feel free to correct us if you consider the clarification that we received to be incorrect.)
Be that as it may, the really odd thing about this latest suspension is that it uses the same set of regulations as its foundation that the court just pronounced as being non-applicable to the position of Commissioner of Police. The court had added another issue at the commencement of the hearing on October 5, 2018, where it would contemplate “Whether or not the Regulations apply to the Commissioner”. As we reported, according to Justice Smith’s ruling, neither side had addressed this issue in their original written submissions, and consequently, each side was permitted to file supplementary post-hearing submissions on that single point. The hearing then proceeded.
      The judge said that the Regulations, without doubt, apply only to the ranks identified within the law and those ranks included officers from the rank of inspector and below and as such, they did not apply to the Commissioner of police. Section 37. (1) of the Act under which Robinson was charged, states that, “An Inspector, subordinate police officer or constable against whom any complaint or information for an offence punishable on summary conviction or on indictment is laid, or against whom a charge is made for breach of any disciplinary regulation made under this Act, may, pending, and until the final determination of such complaint, information or charge (a) be suspended from duty and placed on half-pay by the Commission.”
We tried to keep the legal lingo out of this but reference to the law is important because it appears that the same regulations are being used as the foundation for the most recent suspension which came in the face of a pending hearing of charges of discreditable and oppressive conduct under the Regulations.That is one of the essential points being made by Mr. Pompey and one of the reasons why he has said that Robinson would be within his rights to make an application to the Justice Smith to commit the seven-member commission to prison.  
Mr. Pompey has described this as a “blunder” by the PSC but if his analysis is accurate then it is beyond a blunder and the PSC Chairman, Kelvin John, and the other Commission members have more than a few questions to answer because it appears that they have made a bad situation worse.  Considering the legal and other skills of the Commission members, we are baffled as to how a blunder such as this could have occurred. 
Mr. Pompey’s is but one man’s opinion and, as much as his arguments make a lot of sense, there is always the other side of the argument. Will we hear from the Commission on these questions of law and procedure?  We doubt it. We are more likely to be treated to deafening silence. We predict that the excuses will be along the usual lines of “we do not discuss cases before the courts” but the public is not concerned about the details of the case at this time. Instead, the public wants to know about the legal procedures and regulations that keep us on this bumpy road. The people want to know if the apparent procedural missteps are due to a lack of procedural knowledge and understanding of the disciplinary regulations as Mr. Pompey states.
After already suffering a significant defeat, the PSC members must be hoping that the second time’s the charm because should Mr. Pompey be correct in his assessment of their actions, it will be a significant indictment of their ability to carry out their functions.  Time will tell.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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