Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with an on-going investigation being conducted here by officers from the United Kingdom Metropolitan Police.
The Justice was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. No charges have been filed against him, and investigators said at press time that Mr. Henderson was still in custody at the George Town police station.
Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger said the arrest was connected to the initial investigation begun by his team of officers in September 2007. That probe surrounded apparently false accusations that an RCIPS deputy commissioner had been involved in a corrupt relationship with a local newspaper publisher.
The investigation led to the removal in March of three top RCIPS commanders, including Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and Chief Superintendent John Jones.
Mr. Bridger has said his team is focusing on the actions of those three men which culminated in an unauthorised entry at the personal offices of Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales on 3 September, 2007.
That entry was made by a former Net News employee, who has told the Caymanian Compass that he was in contact with both Mr. Kernohan and Mr. Jones around the time of the entry. However, the employee insisted that he had neither been asked nor ordered to go into the office by RCIPS officers.
Mr. Seales has alleged that two of his former employees entered his office looking for evidence of a corrupt relationship between himself and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis which did not exist.
Whether anyone in officialdom authorised that 3 September entry is likely to become a key issue in the on-going probe by UK Met Police, but Mr. Bridger has so far refused to comment on that specific aspect of the case.
It’s not known how Justice Henderson fits into the investigation. However, Governor Stuart Jack said he wanted to make it clear that none of the judgments Mr. Henderson has made from the bench were in question.
Mr. Bridger added that there was no evidence that the Justice was involved in the 3 September entry at Mr. Seales’ office.
‘I do not underestimate the impact of this action on the individual concerned, and the local and international communities,’ Mr. Bridger said. ‘I only took the action (Wednesday) after careful consideration of the evidence available.’
Mr. Bridger said that his officers had not made the decision at this point whether to prefer a file to the attorney general’s office seeking charges against the Justice. However, he said that he was confident the Cayman Islands criminal justice system would handle the matter appropriately.
‘Cases put before the attorney general’s office have been adjudicated in a proper and correct manner,’ he said.
If Mr. Henderson is charged and must have his case heard in court, he would presumably have the issue brought before one of his fellow justices.
Governor Jack said Chief Justice Anthony Smellie was ‘working through the practical implications’ of Mr. Henderson’s arrest.
Cayman is already one Grand Court judge down. Justice Priya Levers was formally suspended last week after complaints were made against her. Officials said that suspension had nothing to do with the investigation being conducted by the UK Met police.
Justice Henderson was listed to appear in open court on Friday, but the Chief Justice’s office could provide no further clarity on Mr. Henderson’s status.
‘I want to assure the community that the courts will continue to function,’ Governor Jack said. ‘Chief Justice Anthony Smellie…will take the necessary steps to ensure the continuity of the courts.’
Grand Court Justice Charles Quin was appointed to the bench on 11 September. The Chief Justice is also a Grand Court judge. Acting justices are often brought into hear cases on an as-needed basis.
Top cops still on leave
Messrs. Kernohan, Jones and Dixon remain on paid leave while the UK Met team continues its investigation. Neither Mr. Kernohan nor Mr. Jones has been arrested or charged in connection with the probe.
‘I am getting closer to the point at which I will be able to interview them,’ Mr. Bridger said.
Mr. Dixon has been arrested and charged with misconduct in a public office, and doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. He’s due to appear at the opening of the new session of Grand Court on 1 October where a trial date could be set.
Those charges are unrelated to the initial UK Met investigation, and instead arose in subsequent investigations of Mr. Dixon’s alleged actions as deputy police commissioner.
Mr. Bridger and Governor Jack both asked for the public’s patience as the investigation progresses.
‘I acknowledge that these are difficult times and the latest development will generate much public debate,’ Mr. Bridger said. ‘I am aware that there is increasing desire from the community to bring these matters to conclusion.’
‘My team is committed and will meticulously follow the facts – and only the facts.’
Compass journalists Carol Winker and James Dimond contributed to this report.