The final act in the public exoneration of Justice Alexander Henderson ended Thursday with a stinging indictment of the police team responsible for the judge’s illegal arrest.
In a court appearance formalising a $1.275 million settlement for the judge, Mr. Henderson’s attorney, Ramon Alberga QC, took a parting shot at the UK Metropolitan Police team whose ‘inept conduct’, he said, was responsible for the debacle.
‘I want to extend my personal thanks and appreciation to the attorney general and the Legal Department for the professional, courteous and expedited way they entered into negotiations to reach a final settlement,’ Mr. Alberga said.
‘They had nothing whatsoever to do with this debacle that was created by the most inept conduct of those responsible for the injury done to Justice Henderson.’
Lawyers for Mr. Henderson agreed to an out-of-court settlement last week for his unlawful arrest and the unlawful searches of his home and office last year.
Neither Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger nor acting Police Commissioner James Smith was in court for the rebuke.
In fact, the only representative from the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs on hand was Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks, who is a member of the so-called ‘special oversight committee’ responsible for overseeing the investigation. Mr. Ebanks looked on from the public gallery, but played no role in the brief hearing before acting Grand Court Justice Angus Foster.
Mr. Henderson was also absent.
Illustrative of his public and professional restitution only six months after his arrest, Mr. Henderson was upstairs, in his chambers, hearing a divorce case and three civil disputes.
Mr. Henderson was arrested on 24 September in connection with allegations of misuse of public office by an independent police team that has been operating in Cayman since September 2007.
A visiting judge later ruled that Mr. Henderson’s arrest, as well as the searches of his home and office, was illegal and ordered an inquiry into damages.
As Mr. Henderson’s lawyers started negotiating a settlement, the judge received an ‘unreserved apology’ from the acting Police Commissioner James Smith on behalf of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Mr. Bridger, and the officer that arrested Mr. Henderson, Special Constable Richard Coy.
Mr. Henderson’s lawyers and the Attorney General’s Office agreed to a settlement in January, but the cash was refused by Cayman Islands Cabinet members, who questioned why they should be left holding the bill for the actions of the MET team.
Governor Stuart Jack then went over their heads, using his reserved powers to get the permission of the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to force the money through at the expense of the Cayman Islands Government.
The veteran judge – known as ‘Ace’ by members of the legal community in his native Canada – has previously said he hoped the people of Cayman would not have to pay for the settlement.
Mr. Henderson has declined to speak to local media about the settlement, but told the Vancouver Sun on 31 January he thinks ‘the size of the award will demonstrate to the public that I suffered a serious injustice.’