Cabinet in the dark on judge arrest

Members of the Cabinet said they really did not know why Justice Alexander Henderson was arrested last week.

Speaking at the Cabinet press briefing Friday, Minister Alden McLaughlin said the situation underscored the need for a change in the constitutional arrangement with the United Kingdom.

‘Because we don’t have constitutional responsibility at all, and because [Governor Stuart Jack] takes the attitude that ‘that’s what the constitution says, and therefore we don’t have responsibility’ we don’t get this information,’ he said.

‘There is just something wrong with an arrangement… which essentially allows for a British invasion of our system and foreign cops investigating… I don’t know what. I just think that what has been done so far seems to me a gross overreaction to the issues at hand.’

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts also said recent events gave the constitutional negotiations a sense of urgency.

‘I refer to the investigations of the police hierarchy that has resulted, so far in the suspension of the commissioner; the laying of charges against a deputy commissioner; and the suspension of another senior officer,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately the spotlight has now extended to the judiciary.

‘This (past) week’s unprecedented arrest of a Grand Court judge following the suspension of another judge over a week ago is indeed cause for grave concern.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the Cabinet had received ‘scant information’ about Justice Henderson’s arrest and the Governor had only briefed them in general terms about the surrounding scenario that caused his arrest.

Even though Mr. Tibbetts stressed no one had been found guilty of anything yet, he said the recent arrests and charges could have ‘serious implications for the international image of the Cayman Islands’.

‘They can also serve to undermine public confidence in these two key state institutions,’ he said. ‘It takes years of effort to build a good image and reputation; but these can be easily shattered overnight.

Mr. Tibbetts said he hoped the issues could be resolved quickly so the cloud hanging over the police service and judiciary could be lifted.

Mr. McLaughlin said he was less trusting than Mr. Tibbetts.

‘I have to tell you from the second talk that we had with [Metropolitan Police Senior Investigating Officer] Martin Bridger about the original situation with [Police Commissioner Stuart] Kernohan, I expressed grave doubts,’ he said.

Drawing on his instincts and experiences as a lawyer, Mr. McLaughlin said the matter ‘just doesn’t feel right to me’.

‘I am very sceptical of coincidences and the arrest of [Justice] Henderson in the middle of the week just before the these constitutional talks start, rang all sorts of alarm bells in my head, which had started to quietly peel anyhow back some time ago,’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin asked if the response by the UK Government was proportionate to what had allegedly occurred.

‘What’s at stake here is the international credibility of the Cayman Islands,’ he said. ‘Yes, if we have a corrupt system, we need to fix it. But nothing I have seen or heard so far leads me to believe that the response of the governor to these matters is proportionate to what we are perceiving.

‘In the case of [Justice] Henderson, we have no idea really what that’s about.’

Mr. McLaughlin said everywhere he goes he is asked what is going on, especially by those in the business community. He said the elected government needed some involvement in these types of matters.

‘If we had a national security council from whom the governor had to take advice – I’m not saying the decision would be any different – but we wouldn’t be in this realm of speculation,’ he said, adding that the elected government could then tell the people of the Cayman Islands it supported the actions of the governor.

‘But the community and the government would have some confidence that these decisions aren’t decisions that are being taken in isolation by the United Kingdom Government… with what agenda in mind? It is a most worrying situation and most frustrating situation.’

Mr. McLaughlin said Cayman was no longer a little colonial outpost.

‘We’ve got some of the biggest banks and businesses and firms. It’s a sophisticated jurisdiction,’ he said. ‘We just cannot have what appears to local people as simply an invasion by another country to do whatever they think is right to ensure good governance. There’s got to be some local involvement.’

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now