Despite his arrest last week on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson has not been suspended from the bench, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said Wednesday.
In a statement read in court on Mr. Smellie’s behalf by Justice Lennox Campbell, the Chief Justice defended the integrity of Cayman’s courts and sought to allay fears that Justice Henderson’s arrest, coupled with the recent suspension of Grand Court Justice Priya Levers, will affect the courts’ ability to do its job.
‘Justice Henderson has not been suspended from his office, thus the administrative decision as to whether [he] should be sitting as a judge has been left to me,’ the statement said.
‘Through his advisors Justice Henderson has agreed that it would be inappropriate for him to preside in the current circumstances,’ the Chief Justice said.
Mr. Smellie emphasised that Justice Henderson was arrested on an allegation that does not involve dishonesty, is not connected to any case the judge presided over and he has not been charged with any crime.
Mr. Smellie said necessary steps have been taken to deal with a busy court schedule.
Justice Charles Quinn has cut short a vacation in the UK and will return to the bench tomorrow, while two other justices have been appointed to fill in.
Justice Norma McIntosh, a Supreme Court of Jamaica judge, has been appointed to sit for three weeks, while Justice Campbell, a Jamaican High Court Judge, will sit in the Grand Court for one month.
The Chief Justice was in another court dealing with a case that Justice Henderson had been presiding over when the statement was read out.
Justice Henderson was arrested by UK Metropolitan Police Wednesday, 24 September, on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.
In an interview with the Compass Sunday, Mr. Henderson vowed to clear his name and return to the bench, saying: ‘If they decide not to charge me, I’m going back to the bench, If they charge me, I’ll be acquitted and I’m going back to the bench.’
Justice Henderson’s arrest came just one week after Governor Stuart Jack formally suspended Grand Court Justice Priya Levers pending the outcome of a Judicial Tribunal examining claims of misbehaviour against her.
On Tuesday, Justice Henderson told the Caymanian Compass ‘I have a bunch of holiday time accrued and I’m taking it, at my request.’
Admitting he was upset when he spoke to the Compass Sunday, Mr. Henderson said he probably shouldn’t have stated he was known as one of the best lawyers in Canada. ‘It probably would have been more accurate to say I was one of the best-known trial lawyers in western Canada,’ he said. ‘It’s a big country and I never practiced in the east.’
Mr. Henderson also confirmed that one of the barristers representing him, QC Geoffrey Cox, is in fact the British Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon. Mr. Cox is a highly-regarded attorney and speaker, and his maiden speech in Parliament in 2005 was voted one of the four best maiden speeches of the year.
Compass reporter Alan Markoff contributed to this story.