(Trinidad Guardian) A female Special Reserve Police (SRP) has won her lawsuit over her suspension by former police commissioner Stephen Williams, after a provocative photograph of her in uniform was shared on social media two years ago.
Delivering an oral judgement at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled that Williams acted oppressively when he decided to suspend Sophia Duncan pending an investigation into the issue. Rampersad said Williams’ decision was in breach of natural justice, as he did not give Duncan an opportunity to defend herself before making it.
As part of the judgement, Rampersad ordered $30,000 in compensation for Duncan. He also directed Williams’ successor, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, to provide her with the particulars of the investigation by April 30 and to conclude the investigation within a reasonable time.
While Duncan received an order quashing the decision, Rampersad could not order that she be reinstated as the investigation is still pending.
According to the evidence presented in the case, on August 7, 2017, Duncan, who was then assigned to the Transit Police, first learned that a photograph of someone resembling her was shared on social media. The photograph, which depicted a female officer in uniform lying on a couch with one leg raised, was then published by several newspapers. Two days later, Duncan received correspondence from Williams informing her that she was being investigated for bringing the T&T Police Service (TTPS) into disrepute and that she should immediately cease her duties pending the investigation.
Duncan’s lawyers, Christophe Rodriguez and Elena Da Silva, wrote to Williams challenging the decision but were forced to file the lawsuit after they received no response. In the lawsuit, the lawyers claimed Duncan, who was six weeks pregnant at the time, became depressed as a result of the decision.
“The stress brought on by the situation of having a picture depicting her on the front page of a national newspaper in widespread public view and the consequent suspension from her job caused Duncan to become very unwell and her pregnancy was at risk,” they said in the lawsuit.
Contacted yesterday, however, TTPS Head of Legal, Christian Chandler, said Rampersad’s judgement would be appealed.