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Court grants Police Association leave to apply for Judicial Review

Since being appointed as Commissioner of Police in January, Chester Williams has made changes under his command. For the most part, he has received overwhelming support; but recently, the Commissioner has followed up with an issue he inherited from his predecessor, Allen Whylie, as it relates to the Belize Police Association and has become quite unpopular for it. The matter has reached the courts in Belize as the association is not happy with a limit being placed on terms for its presidency. This morning, the parties appeared before Justice Shona Griffith, whose courtroom was packed to capacity with top ranking police officers including the Commissioner.  After this morning’s hearing, Attorney Stacy Grinage, representing Arzu, spoke to the media about what transpired in court.

Stacey Grinage – Attorney for Claimant: “The Court has granted us permission to file the claim as the court finds that there are arguably grounds with real prospects of success and that we may be able to establish those grounds that the decision made was an error or unlawful so that is what happened in court today. After granting the permission we were given until the 23rd of May to file the actual claim form, then we were given other directions to make disclosures, to file other documents and the trial is actually scheduled for the 22nd and 23rd of July 2018 so within a matter of months this matter should be concluded. The grounds that we are relying on, we are saying that the Commissioner breached Corporal Arzu’s right to natural justice, his right to be heard. We are saying that the decision was unreasonable, we are saying that the decision was biased and that the Commissioner acted outside his scope of authority and we are saying that the decision made is in breach of Corporal Arzu’s legitimate expectation that as Chairman of the Association he should remain at the Association’s office so those are the grounds we are relying on to establish the case.”

While the court granted leave for judicial review, the two injunctions that Arzu was hoping for did not come about.  Arzu was hoping that he would be able to stop the Commissioner from transferring him and that he would be able to get paid his salary despite being absent from work.  Commissioner Chester Williams explained at today’s press brief.

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams: “In respect to the applications filed by the applicant for the injunctions, the court rejected those applications and said to the applicant that the applicant must report for work. She also pointed out to them that while the Police Department is a public service entity that the standard of discipline in the Police Department or the military is different from the ordinary public service and so once a lawful command is given then officers or members are expected to comply with the lawful instructions. If it is that they believe that the instructions are not in their best interest then they can comply and take the agreed matter before the court for the court to be able to determine whether or not there was reasonableness in the actions, in this case, the Commissioner so the judge told him that he needs to report for work. So we are anticipating that Mr. Arzu is going to report for duty tomorrow or today concerning the fact that he has been absent for over a month and once he reports for duty then his salary will be activated. As I have said before as the Commissioner of Police I have a responsibility to ensure that the budgetary allocation for the Police Department which includes in monument is spent in compliance with the financial and Stuarts order.

The case was adjourned to July 22.  Love News understands that one of the sticking points in the tension between both parties is the absence of an audit to account for the hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited by the police officers as well as the lack of regular AGMs as is stipulated.  An official source has indicated that to date there is an estimated nine thousand dollars in the Association’s bank account and the documents to carry out an audit has not been surrendered by the relevant parties.  As to the amount in the bank, we have been seeking further confirmation.////