T&T female cops win the right to wear hijab on duty
(Trinidad Express) The court has ruled in favour of a hijab-wearing police officer, declaring that her right to freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance has been infringed by the denial of the request to wear a hijab and/or the prohibition against wearing a hijab together with her uniform whilst on duty as an officer.
Yesterday, Justice Margaret Mohammed, delivered judgement, declared that the Police Service Regulations, 2007 was unconstitutional, invalid, null and void to the extent that it makes no provision for the wearing of the hijab.
The judge ordered that damages to be assessed, and that the defendant pay the Special Reserve Police officer Sharon Roop’s legal costs.
Roop had brought legal action against the Office of the Attorney General, contending that her constitutional right of freedom of conscience, religious belief and observance had been breached since she is not permitted to wear the hijab with her uniform whilst at work.
Sometime in 2015 she wrote to the Commissioner of Police requesting permission to wear the hijab with her uniform whilst on duty since it was part of her religious observation as a Muslim woman. In that same Memorandum she noted that she was not the only individual who was seeking permission for the ability to observe her faith whilst executing her professional duties. She also enclosed a number of pictorial depictions of the manner in which the hijab could be worn with her uniform and provided research material on the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women in law enforcement in several non-Muslim countries.
The Commissioner of Police did not respond to her Memorandum. More than two and a half years after not receiving a response to that Memorandum, the Claimant sought legal advice.
A pre-action letter dated 9th July 2017 was sent by the Claimant’s attorney at law to the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of National Security and the Solicitor General, the representative of the Attorney General, in whose name proceedings against the State are to be brought. The pre-action correspondence highlighted the particular section of the Police Service Regulations 2007 (“the Regulations”), which prevents the Claimant from wearing the hijab, and called upon the Commissioner and/or Minister to take the necessary steps to amend the Regulations.
On 22nd June 2017, State Counsel responded on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security, indicating that the matter had been “formally redirected to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, who has purview over matters of this nature”.
By way of letter dated 31st July 2017, a Legal Officer of the TTPS, Ag Inspector Kazim Ali, responded to the pre-action letter in the following terms:
“Be informed the Commissioner of Police has given careful consideration to your client’s request, however, I regret to inform you that the law has not changed, the dress order for female officers (second division) is outlined under Regulation 121 and Schedule D of the Police Service Act Chapter 15:01.
Therefore, until there is a change in the legislation, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service cannot accede to your request”.
As a result, Roop took legal action through her attorneys Anand Ramlogan SC, Gerald Ramdeen, and Chelsea Stewart instructed by Robert AbdoolMitchell.
The State was defended by Tinuke Gibbons-Glenn, Stefan Jaikaran and Candice Alexander instructed by Svetlana Dass.