A human rights case of 10 Caymanian police officers who claim they were discriminated against on the grounds of age and nationality when they were forced to retire or accept a demotion at age 55 stalled in Grand Court on Tuesday.
Government lawyers are seeking to have nine of the officers “time barred” from the case, arguing that they did not bring the challenge within the 12-month time frame required by the Constitution.
Justice Robin McMillan adjourned the case until Wednesday afternoon to hear arguments on the timing issue.
In a court filing in January, the officers argued they were treated differently than officers from the U.K., who were not being retired or demoted at age 55. They also argue that officers who joined the force after 2010, when the retirement age was raised to 60, are being treated differently on grounds of age.
Jeffrey Jupp, representing the officers who are bringing the suit in coordination with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Association, said one of the 10 police officers listed in the case had retired within the 12 months before the suit being filed and was within the time constraints for this type of legal challenge.
He said the other nine had accepted new employment contracts at reduced ranks. For those officers, he said the 12-month limit should not apply, since the discrimination continued beyond their retirement date.
“Our primary position is that there isn’t a time limitation,” he said. “They are being discriminated against on the basis of nationality and age because they are being forced to work at a reduced rank …. That is a continuing infringement of their rights.
“The time limits would only apply to them when their employment ceased. As long as they remain employed at a reduced rank, their rights are being interfered with.”
He added, “It is a continuing infringement. They are being treated differently to other people in the same position. If you are a younger officer who joined more recently, you can work until you are 60.”
Justice McMillan requested both parties to prepare detailed arguments on the issue of time limits and adjourned the hearing until Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. He said he needed to deal with the issue of “who has the right to be here” under the constitution before the substantive arguments could be heard.
“Until that’s done, I don’t think we can go any further,” he added.
According to the petition filed on behalf of the police officer, the retirement age of 55, set under the previous version of the Cayman Islands Police Law, no longer applies to officers hired following the current Police Law’s effective date, Nov. 11, 2010. The retirement age for all police officers who joined the force after that date is 60.
However, anyone hired before that date who is below the rank of police chief inspector must still retire at 55 or, if given the option, can be re-engaged as a police constable or senior constable, the lowest ranks in the police service.