‘Arbitrary’ dismissal could create a bad precedent – Lawyer

Image: FILE

A lawyer for two dismissed police officers has warned that their “arbitrary” dismissal could create a bad precedent.

Naomi Raikaci made the comments in legal submissions for her clients, former police officers Penieli Ratei and Tomasi Naulu, who lost their jobs in August last year.

The Court was told the two officers followed a taxi driven by Bolaitia Bainimarama last year.

In their previous encounters, Mr Bainimarama had been found with dried leaves believed to be marijuana in the taxi, but on this date they did not find anything.

Mr Naulu took a picture of Mr Bainimarama with his mobile phone and Mr Ratei uploaded it to the Police Southern Division Operations viber group, as was “standard and accepted practice in profiling high risk individuals in the community”, Ms Raikaci said.

The two officers were later charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline of the force, as it was alleged that by uploading the photo to the viber group they contravened Section 18 of the Police Act which states that any “police officer may cause to be taken, for use and record in the registry of the force, photographs of any person in lawful custody for any offence punishable by imprisonment, whether such person has been convicted of such offence or not”.

They were interdicted by the acting Police Commissioner at the time, Rusiate Tudravu, and sent home on half pay.

A tribunal was held which, although it denied them the opportunity to give mitigation submissions and found them guilty of the charge, acknowledged that their guilt was the fault of the accepted practice in the Police Force in profiling high risk people.

In letters to them on August 4 last year after the tribunal decision, Mr Tudravu lifted their interdiction with immediate effect and said their pay would be restored — one day before Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho resumed his duties and responsibilities.

On August 16 the two officers were told to show cause as to why they should not be terminated from the Police Force.

They handed in submissions the following day.

However, on August 18, they received letters that said Mr Qiliho had directed their immediate dismissal from the force.

Principal legal officer at the Attorney General’s officer Manuliza Faktaufon argued that the Commissioner of Police had the power to remove people from the Police Force under Section 129 (7) (a) of the Constitution.

Ms Raikaci said Mr Qiliho’s actions would create a precedent for the Commissioner of Police to dismiss anybody, at any time, anyhow, without observing the principles of natural justice, fairness and the right to fair hearing from the Police Force.

High Court judge Justice Yohan Liyanage adjourned the matter with a ruling to be made on notice.

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