Friday, December 15, 2017

'Hundreds awaiting gun licences'


new board appointed: President George Maxwell Richards congratulates attorney Israel Khan after taking the oath as chairman of the Firearm Appeals Board, at Knowsley, Queen's Park West, Port of Spain, yesterday. At right is board member Michael Dindayal. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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NEWLY appointed chairman of the Firearm Appeals Board, Israel Khan SC, has said there are hundreds and possibly thousands of pending appeals from persons who have been denied Firearm User's Licences by the Commissioner of Police.

Khan, along with members Michael Dindayal and Samuel Graham, will constitute the board which has not been in existence since 2008.

Khan and Dindayal received their instruments of appointment yesterday from President George Maxwell Richards during a brief ceremony at Knowsley building in Port of Spain. Graham was not present.

In an interview with the Express moments after taking the oath of office, Khan said the board will just have to adopt a "day by day" approach in an attempt to expedite the matters.

"I guess with the escalation of crime, there are businessmen clamouring for protection so the present Government deemed it fit to have this board up and running," Khan said.

"I am still in active practice and that will create a problem in that the support staff of the Ministry of National Security are regular public servants. I believe some arrangements will have to be made if we are sitting after normal working hours to compensate these public servants."

Describing it as a "monumental task", Khan said the board may even have to consider sitting on weekends to clear up the backlog of appeals.

In 2005, High Court judge Amrika Tiwary-Reddy, now retired, ruled that then prime minister Patrick Manning and his Cabinet were guilty of maladministration by failing to appoint the board.

The ruling was made in a lawsuit filed by attorney Anand Ramlogan on behalf of Oscar Ramoutar—a former communications specialist attached to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

Ramlogan filed a similar writ in 2009 on behalf of a police officer whose application for a Firearm User's Licence (FUL) was turned down by the Commissioner of Police on August 17, 2007.

He sought to appeal that decision on May 16, 2008, and was later notified that the board was not constituted since March 1, 2008 since its term had expired.

Justice Peter Rajkumar, in a 26-page judgment in April 2010, said the inability of cabinet to advise the president on the appointment of a board will continue to infringe on the rights of citizens if the issue is not addressed with haste.

In August 2010, three months after being appointed Attorney General, Ramlogan said the issue was receiving attention and the board would have been appointed "shortly".