Special reserve police (SRPs) have lost their bid to be recognised as equals with regular police officers.
The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the claim of 592 past and present SRPs who had accused the State of discrimination by failing to equate their terms and conditions of service with those of the regular officers in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).
The SRPs had complained that they performed the same or equal work when compared to members of the TTPS of equivalent rank but did not receive equal benefits.
Through their attorneys, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Vijaya Maharaj, the SRPs said as a result, they have been denied their right to equality of treatment from a public authority in the exercise of its functions under Section 4 (d) of the Constitution.
They further contended they were denied the protection of the law by the failure of the Minister of National Security to formulate regulations to give effect to their entitlements.
The matter was initially heard before High Court Judge Prakash Moosai, who dismissed the claim on April 2, 2008.
An appeal was filed and judgment was delivered yesterday by Justices of Appeal Nolan Bereaux, Peter Jamadar and Allan Mendonca, who said they agreed with Moosai that there was no merit in the arguments raised by the officers. Appearing on behalf of the State were attorneys Fyard Hosein SC and Rachel Thurab.
Moosai had concluded that members of the Police Service cannot be true comparators with members of the Special Reserve Police Service as the legislature had clearly created two distinct classes of officers, and the SRP service has been assigned duties of lesser responsibility.
"The failure to make regulations was not a breach of the right to protection of the law, " Moosai said.
"There was no legally enforceable duty on the relevant minister to pass regulations within any specific time frame. The non-implementation of the regulations could not have provided the basis for the remedies sought," he added.
Moosai had also ruled that the SRPs could access all, or substantially all, of the benefits proposed by the unimplemented regulations under the subsisting legislation.
In the final analysis, Moosai said the determination of the terms and conditions of service for SRPs was a matter of policy.
In outlining the facts, Bereaux, Jamadar and Mendonca said the SRP service was formed to provide a body comprising persons who were otherwise employed but who, out of civic responsibility, were prepared to assist the police by rendering part-time service.
"However, due to the increasing demand for manpower in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, without corresponding increases in its sanctioned strength, SRPs were called out on what appeared to be a permanent basis, instead of full-time or temporary service as contemplated by the Special Reserve Police Act," the judges said.
"On October 29, 1998, the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago agreed that regulations be made to give effect to the Act. In the process of preparing the regulations, however, it became clear that those SRPs who had been on virtual permanent duty would be disadvantaged when the regulations were made because such permanence was envisaged when the act was passed."
The Court said Cabinet also decided that the practice of utilising SRPs for extended periods on a full-time basis should be discontinued, which meant SRPs would no longer be employed full-time.
Cabinet had also agreed that those SRPs who had been continuously engaged, full-time, for a period of over two years (as at August 1, 2000) were eligible for permanent appointment into the regular Police Service.
Of the 1,110 police officers in the Special Reserve Police Service at the time, 696 had been on full-time duty for periods in excess of two years.