Wednesday 26 June, 2019

Top Cop: Le Hunte incident was blown out of proportion

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has dismissed assertions that he intervened in a situation involving Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and instructed officers to let him off with a warning.

Griffith has also denied that the Minister was caught using his cell phone while driving.

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In a telephone interview with LoopTT on Tuesday, the Police Commissioner sought to set the record straight following a report in a daily newspaper which alleged that the Minister was involved in a confrontation with police officers and called Griffith on the phone to intervene.

The article alleged that, based on a police report, officers attached to the Traffic Branch were on traffic control duty along Wrightson Road when they saw a car, driven by the Minister, attempting to drive through a construction site at the corner of Dock and Wrightson Roads around 8.30 pm on Sunday.

The report indicated that the officers attempted to get Le Hunte’s attention to divert him onto the correct lane but he was talking on his phone.

The report further stated that the Minister was subsequently informed that he had committed an offence, which he is said to have ignored.

He allegedly emerged from his vehicle a short while after and told the officers that the Commissioner was on the line and wished to speak with them.

According to the report, Le Hunte was told that it was not proper protocol for officers to talk on a member of the public's phone.

Griffith was said to have arrived on the scene shortly after and allegedly instructed the officers to let the Minister go, and requested that Le Hunte see him in his office at 8 am.  

However, Griffith has disputed this account of events, labelling it as totally incorrect and far from what actually took place.

“At no time was I ever involved, at no time did the Minister try to contact me to try to amend any decision made by the police.

At no time were the police involved in trying to charge Minister Le Hunte for any matter, and at no time was I ever in or around the area when all of this took place.

I only turned up there 45 minutes after Minister Le Hunte had left.”   

He took aim at the daily publication, accusing the newspaper of having a track record of sensationalism.

“It is not the first time that this has happened; that they sensationalise something with totally false accusations and statements.

The (publication’s name called) put out an article without any substance, without speaking to myself, Minister Le Hunte or any of the officers and they jumped on a story based on gossip and rumourmongering rather than trying to get the facts and that is very unfortunate.

Since then, (reporter’s name called) from the (publication’s name called) has submitted something else to show that what was stated in the initial article was totally erroneous, if not mischievous.”

The Police Commissioner said that the matter was being blown out of proportion, as he gave his verion of events on what took place on Sunday night.

“The fact of the matter is that this was a very trivial matter. At no time was there a situation where the police officers thought that Minister Le Hunte had broken any law or that he had committed any act that involved them needing to charge him.

At no time was he accused by the police officers of driving while he was on the phone. It was all littered with lies. It meant that somebody decided to just sensationalise something for their own personal agenda.” 

The real issue, which Griffith said had already been identified and addressed, was that traffic management at the construction night on the night of the incident could have been significantly improved.

He said while traffic was being diverted from entering Hyatt, there was no ‘no entry’ sign or any police officer stationed there at the time, so the Minister drove in.

Griffith said the Minister contacted him to inform him of those discrepancies as he was concerned with the manner in which the officers dealt with him.

“So the Minister was explaining to me that he dealt with a particular sergeant and there was a debate between him and a constable.

He (Le Hunte) gave me the Constable’s (regimental) number and that’s the only time that I got involved.”

Griffith said he went there to “look at the situation and ascertain what was causing the problem” after he realised that the constable gave a false regimental number to the Minister.

He said he also saw that the cone were not placed in close proximity to one another to indicated that the area was blocked off. He also noted the absence of a ‘no entry’ sign.

Griffith said he then spoke with the officers and explained what should be done to prevent other people from encountering a similar situation.

He also spoke with the constable, and cautioned him against giving a false number to a member of the public regardless of his feelings at the time.

Asked whether the police constable would be reprimanded for providing a false regimental number to a member of the public, Griffith said people make mistakes which is not a case that warrants “heavy disciplinary action”.

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