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Ex-Coast Guard officer fired over gun charge
A High Court Judge has advised military chiefs to implement more stringent background checks on prospective recruits in a bid to prevent criminals infiltrating the ranks of the Defence Force. Justice Frank Seepersad gave the advise yesterday after he dismissed a lawsuit of a former Coast Guard officer, who was discharged after six years of service, when his superiors learned of his two criminal convictions for gun and ammunition possession.
As he stated that personnel with unblemished records were necessary to protect the integrity of the different protective agencies, Seepersad accused the Chief of Defence Staff and other national security heads of being negligent in implementing proper criminal record vetting checks for admissions into their organisations.
“It is an abhorrent neglect of their responsibility when simple background checks are not properly undertaken and this level of inefficiency does not augur well for the reputation of and public confidence in the Defence Force,” he added. His comments came less than a week after a newspaper report revealed that 30 candidates had been rejected by the Police Service after they admitted to committing criminal offences during a mandatory polygraph testing.
Ainsley Greaves filed the constitutional motion in 2012 when he was discharged by Coast Guard commanding officer Capt Hayden Pritchard who discovered he failed to declare his criminal record while being recruited in 2004 and again when undergoing advanced weaponry training in 2010. Greaves alleged his constitutional rights had been infringed as he was dismissed without being accused of a disciplinary offence and without being given an opportunity to defend himself in a disciplinary tribunal.
Although he criticised the Defence Force’s failure to verify Greaves’ application, Seepersad said it did not excuse Greaves’ actions in withholding information on his criminal convictions which occurred five months before he joined the Coast Guard.
“Greaves is very fortunate that criminal charges were not instituted against him before a court martial and that the commanding officer elected instead to have the Chief of Defence Staff discharge him on the ground that his service was no longer required,” the judge said.
As part of his failure to prove his case against the Defence Force, Seepersad ordered Greaves to pay its legal costs for defending his lawsuit. Greaves was represented by Ronald Simon and Ayanna Humphrey while Sean Julien and Safraz Alsaran appeared for the Defence Force.
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