Letters to newspaper at issue

A series of letters written to newspaper editors in July and August of last year are now at the centre of controversy in the recent arrest of a Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice.

The missives, all signed by different authors, were published by the Cayman Net News on its letters-to-the-editor page.

The letters were also sent to the Caymanian Compass, which did not publish them because of the content.

Their content was of concern to Judge Alexander Henderson who said he asked a Net News employee last year to find out what he could about the source of the letters.

Mr. Henderson has maintained (see separate story in today’s paper) that he never asked or encouraged that employee, former sports editor and crime reporter John Evans, to perform any illegal acts in the course of finding out that information.

In general, Mr. Evans said the judge’s concern appeared to be that the letters may have shown contempt for the judicial administration in Cayman.

The first such letter, ‘There’s room for legal aid abuse,’ was published on 3 July, 2007. It questioned several areas of the islands’ justice system including the administration of legal aid, the selection of judges, and the selection of a legal analyst for the court.

‘Importing particular judges, when locals are available, must be a way of saying thank you,’ the 3 July letter stated. ‘Never mind that they behave in an injudicious manner. This judiciary must not be brought into disrepute.’

The letter went on to allege that the Chief Justice had hand-picked an applicant for a legal analyst position by ‘tailoring’ the application to suit a particular applicant.

The name attached to the letter upon its publication was Thelma Turpin. However, three days later a letter from Thelma Myrie-Turpin of Cayman Brac was published stating that she did not pen the 3 July, 2007 letter.

‘Whilst I agree with some of the points raised, I would like to make it perfectly clear that I, Thelma Turpin, of Cotton Tree Bay, Cayman Brac was not the author of the said letter and had no knowledge of it whatsoever,’ the writer stated.

Thelma Turpin is the former sister-in-law of Net News Acting Managing Editor Barry Randall.

Mr. Randall said Monday that he was not responsible for such letters written to the newspaper, either to vet them, or to edit them.

‘I never saw them before they were published,’ Mr. Randall said. ‘The issue seems to be more with the judiciary. Nothing was said to us at the time by any member of the judiciary.’

The next letter which caused concern was sent on 12 July.

‘Our judges must behave with dignity,’ this letter stated. ‘I work at a local establishment where visiting judges live and I observe their behaviour. I can say as a matter of fact their behaviour is questionable.’

‘On one occasion it became necessary to call the hotel management because the house cleaners were afraid of the large number of guns one judge had in his possession.’

This letter was published under the name Hoyt T.C. Williams.

Another letter published on 20 July, under the name W. Scott Jeffers, questioned why people in the judicial system were not being investigated for misconduct. A letter that followed it on 23 July, under the name H. Irvin Jackson, also raised issues about discrimination in the hiring of the legal analyst.

Another letter on 13 August called for an investigation of the Cayman Islands justice system. It was signed by a Helena Leslie, the same name as an American artist.

According to Mr. Evans, both he and Judge Henderson had suspicions that these letters were being penned under false names to protect the writer’s identity.

It is a crime in the Cayman Islands ‘to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in the islands.’

It is unclear whether the letters to Net News formed a part of the initial investigation by the team of UK Metropolitan Police officers, which related to allegations that Net News publisher Desmond Seales and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis had engaged in a corrupt relationship. However, last week’s arrest of Judge Henderson was related to that initial probe, according to Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger.

Mr. Bridger has said the investigation by his team cleared Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis of any wrong-doing.

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