Met investigation questioned

A former Cayman Islands police inspector and a Grand Court judge have both publicly criticised an investigation being conducted here by a team of officers from the UK Metropolitan Police Service.

henderson

Justice Alexander Henderson

Meanwhile, a key witness for the Met police team said last Wednesday’s arrest of Justice Alexander Henderson was related to several letters published last year in a local newspaper; letters which the witness said attacked the islands’ judiciary and Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in particular.

The senior policeman handling the case, Martin Bridger, said Mr. Henderson was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. He declined to go into further details.

Crown witness John Evans told the Caymanian Compass last week that Judge Henderson had asked him informally in 2007 to look into the source of those critical letters, and also requested that the newspaper, Cayman Net News, be more careful in the future about publishing similar letters.

In Cayman law, it is an offence ‘to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in the islands.’ Libel, which includes published or broadcast defamatory remarks, is also a criminal offence in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Evans, an ex-employee of the Net News, said he was asked by the judge to warn the publication’s former Corporate Affairs Manager Lyndon Martin that the paper ‘was getting very close to the point of contempt.’

‘From Alex (referring to Judge Henderson) I later learned that the Chief Justice had referred the matter to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,’ Mr. Evans said, adding that he believed the letters had been published under false names to protect the writer’s identity.

Justice Henderson, in a written statement released Friday, confirmed that he had spoken to Mr. Evans previously and that he did ask the ex-newsman to look into the source of the letters.

However, the judge denied that he had ever asked Mr. Evans to perform any sort of covert search for that information.

‘I did not ask or encourage Mr. Evans to conduct a search of his employer’s offices,’ Mr. Henderson stated. ‘I did not ask or encourage him to commit any illegal act.’

Mr. Evans has admitted he did search the personal office of Net News publisher Desmond Seales on 3 September, 2007. However, he said his search did not relate to the letters published earlier in the paper, and he insisted that no one in authority asked or forced him to conduct such a search.

Mr. Evans was not arrested in connection with that search and Mr. Bridger has previously said his team have no intention of pursuing any criminal case against him.

However, Mr. Evans said Saturday that he was becoming concerned UK Met police were under pressure to change that stance and charge him with a crime.

If that happens, “you can guarantee I will not be returning to Cayman for Lyndon (Martin’s) trial or any other matters arising from this investigation,” he said.

Justice Henderson was contacted by the UK Met team earlier this year, and said he gave officers a written statement about his discussions with Mr. Evans. Mr. Henderson said he also told police he would answer questions in writing but would not submit to an oral cross-examination.

‘The Chief Justice, Solicitor General, and Special Prosecutor all agreed that was the correct approach in the case of a member of the judiciary being questioned in such circumstances,’ Mr. Henderson wrote. ‘The police did not. They demanded an oral interview repeatedly.’

The judge said Wednesday’s arrest was the only way officers could legally force him to speak with them in person.

‘I have been interviewed for about eight hours over the course of two days,’ he wrote in his statement. ‘I was arrested simply so they could interview me.’

A spokesperson for the Met team said Mr. Henderson was questioned by investigators on Wednesday before his release, and was questioned again on Thursday. He has not been charged with any crimes.

Mr. Henderson did not address Mr. Evans’ claim that the Chief Justice had contacted the RCIPS about the letters written to the Net News. Mr. Bridger declined to comment on the matter. Queries sent to Chief Justice Smellie were not returned by press time.

The initial investigation which brought the Met team here in September 2007 involved allegations that Mr. Seales and RCIPS Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis had shared confidential RCIPS documents and other information which might have disrupted police operations or placed officers in danger. Those claims were later proved false.

Mr. Martin, a former Member of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, was accused of making false statements in relation to Mr. Ennis’ activities and is due to face trial early next year.

Mr. Martin has also been charged with burglary in connection with entering Mr. Seales’ office, but that entry allegedly occurred on a different date than the 3 September, 2007 search.

The Met police probe led to three top RCIPS commanders being removed from office in March to ‘facilitate’ investigations. Two of those men, Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Chief Superintendent John Jones, remain on paid leave and have not been arrested or charged. Met officers are investigating their alleged roles in Mr. Evans’ 3 September entry at the Net News publisher’s office

The third commander, Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon has been charged with misconduct in a public office and doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.

However, those charges are entirely unrelated to the investigation of the 3 September entry at the Net News offices.

Two of the charges against Mr. Dixon relate to a 7 April, 2004 drink driving arrest in which the deputy commissioner allegedly ordered a DUI suspect’s release ‘without reasonable excuse or justification,’ according to court documents.

The man police arrested and later released was a former high-ranking RCIPS official. The Compass is not naming him because he has not been charged with any crimes.

Burmon Scott is the police inspector who alleges Mr. Dixon ordered him to release that DUI suspect. Mr. Scott was arrested by UK Met officers in May.

He spoke to the Compass about his ordeal for the first time last week.

The 28-year veteran inspector, who retired from the RCIPS in 2006, said he was arrested at his office in the Walkers Road Vehicle Licensing Department around 10.30am on 15 May. Mr. Scott said he was informed of the reasons for his arrest and then taken to George Town Police Station. He remained in police custody until Friday evening, some 31 hours later.

‘I will never forget how some of my (former) police co-workers ignored me and pretended that they didn’t know who I was,’ Mr. Scott said. ‘I remember putting my hand out to shake the hand of a good friend of mine and he pulled his hand away, as if he didn’t want the English officers (to) see him shake my hand.’

‘I felt embarrassed at work when I had to face the public on my job, knowing that everyone by now had read the news,’ Mr. Scott said. ‘I get the impression from the looks on some people’s faces that they don’t believe that I was only arrested for obeying orders from the deputy commissioner.’

On 31 July, Mr. Scott said he got a letter from the attorney general’s office stating there was no intention to prosecute him in the matter.

‘I am seeking legal advice as to what action I could take against the commissioner of police, or the government, for arresting me and putting me in the cells for two days, destroying my name.’

Mr. Scott said he was confused by his arrest since he was aware that Met investigators had interviewed two retired officers on Cayman Brac concerning the 2003 release of two gambling suspects.

Those two ex-officers were not arrested, Mr. Scott said.

‘Why did they have to arrest me?’ Mr. Scott asked.

In previous interviews, Mr. Bridger has said that ‘while (he) may have come to a view around certain evidence’ in relation to his investigation, it is up to the attorney general’s office to decide whether anyone is charged. Mr. Bridger has declined to discuss any specifics surrounding either Mr. Dixon or Mr. Scott’s case.

‘This is a difficult time for everyone — particularly those under investigation,’ Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack said last week. ‘That said, it is important to know that investigations of this nature inevitably take time and money. I do believe it is of national importance to pursue this specific investigation to its full conclusion.’

Indeed, the international community has also been drawn in by the news regarding Mr. Henderson. Both Vancouver and Toronto newspapers carried stories on Friday about his arrest.

Letters have been e-mailed to the Compass from Canada expressing shock at the arrest of a former member of the British Columbia Supreme Court.

‘I can only say nothing could be more out of character than the complaint or arrest of Justice Henderson,’ wrote Kurt Aydin, a Vancouver lawyer who worked under Mr. Henderson as a Crown Prosecutor in British Columbia.

Cayman Islands Cabinet Ministers, who typically have little involvement in police affairs, have begun questioning the investigation and the manner in which it is being conducted.

‘This just doesn’t feel right,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said. ‘I’m not talking for the government, I’m talking for Alden McLaughlin, but this just doesn’t feel right to me.’

‘There is just something wrong with an arrangement…which essentially allows a British invasion of our system and foreign cops investigating I don’t know what.’

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