By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE senior police officer who allegedly punched two women in an incident in Exuma that went viral on social media last year is suing the government for “unlawfully” interdicting him for offences he claims he did not commit.
Inspector Christian Leon Leary, in an affidavit filed yesterday, is suing the Royal Bahamas Police Force for interdicting him on half-pay two weeks after the alleged offences in question on August 4.
Insp Leary asserts he is innocent of claims he punched the two women in their faces while they were traveling home from the Rolleville Homecoming Festival & Regatta.
Images purported to show blood streaming from one of the women’s gashed eyelid were subsequently shared hundreds of times on social media, horrifying users.
However, Insp Leary said in his affidavit: “I will defend against them and I am confident that I will be exonerated of the offences for which I am charged.”
Concerning his August 27 interdiction, Insp Leary said Acting Deputy Commissioner Paul Rolle, who was acting as commissioner at the time, lacked the jurisdiction and authority to interdict him, and did so in contravention of the Police Force Act.
He further asserted that Mr Rolle first needed to have the “proper instruments” to have wielded the “power of the office of the commissioner of police”, and that in any event, an acting commissioner of police is not a “substantive office holder”.
Insp Leary charges that because of his senior rank, the governor general acting in accordance with the advice of the Police Service Commission after consultation with the prime minister, should have exercised disciplinary control over his situation.
However, Insp Leary says he was never brought or taken under the disciplinary procedure set out by the Police Service Commission.
He asserts that because of his interdiction, he has received only one-half of his salary, which has caused him “undue hardship and economic loss” including the “inability” to make payments on his outstanding loan at the Bahamas Law Enforcement Credit Union.
The other half of his salary is “automatically deducted” from his account to satisfy his ongoing mortgage payments at Bank of the Bahamas, he said.
Insp Leary asserts that if he continues to be paid just one-half of his salary, he will continue to suffer “significant economic loss and hardship” and could also face legal action from the BLECU over “outstanding arrears”.
Insp Leary further charges that he is unable to provide for himself or his family, and neither can he pay his utility bills or other “miscellaneous expenditures”. He says that “from time to time”, he resorts to seeking assistance from his mother to assist in paying for his 17-year-old son’s school fees.
He said as a result of the interdiction, he was prohibited from participating in the RBPF’s 2019 promotion exercises.
He wants the Supreme Court to order the government to compensate him for one-half of his loss of earnings from August 27—the date of his interdiction—to the present date and that “effective immediately” he be assigned to police duties and receive his full salary.
Insp Leary also wants the court to declare that any decision made and endorsed with Mr Rolle’s signature is “of no effect”, and that Mr Rolle’s decision to interdict him was “unlawful” and “void”.
According to the affidavit, which is in support of a motion for constitutional relief, Insp Leary was employed with the RBPF since July 13, 2000.
On August 5, 2019, he was stationed at the Exuma Division when he received a RBPF discipline notice and report stating that a complaint had been made at the Complaints and Corruption Branch against him and that an investigation was being conducted.
Weeks later on August 27, via letter from Mr Rolle, he was suspended from police duties with effect from that date on the grounds he was charged with four “major offences”, namely two counts of use of unnecessary violence to a person in the execution of duty; and two counts of conduct of a major nature, which is contrary to discipline, good order and guidance of the RBPF.
The letter also stipulated: “During the period of interdiction, you will receive one half of your normal salary together with the full amount of any other allowances and other emoluments to which you may be entitled.”
The officer said after consulting with his attorney Bjorn Ferguson, a former police officer, he is of the firm belief that his “fundamental and constitutional rights and freedom under the constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas have been violated”.
He also lamented the impact being interdicted has had on his financial obligations.
“…I have several monthly expenses in respect of myself and my 17-year-old son such as a mortgage with Bank of the Bahamas (for my home), an outstanding loan at (BLECU), school fees, utilities such as electricity, water, cable, internet, telephone, gas (vehicle and home), groceries and other miscellaneous expenditures,” the 38-year-old said.
“This unlawful interdiction is causing me undue hardship and economic loss including the inability to make payments on my outstanding loan account at (BLECU),” Insp Leary said. “I am also unable to provide for myself and my family and pay my utility bills and from time to time I have to seek assistance from my mother to assist with paying for my son’s school fee.
“…If I continue to only receive one-half of my salary I will continue to suffer significant economic loss and hardship and I could also face legal action against myself from the (BLECU) for outstanding arrears due and owing by myself.”