Former Grand Court Judge Dale Sanderson won’t be called to give in-person evidence at the Justice Priya Levers tribunal after all, despite explosive new claims about the Canadian QC.
Mr. Sanderson appeared headed for a dramatic showdown with Mrs. Levers, his former colleague, when Tribunal Chairman, Sir Andrew Leggatt said Monday morning he expected the Canadian QC to appear.
But after hearing further submissions on whether the judge should be called and whether Mr. Sanderson would have to face questions about his own conduct, the tribunal on Tuesday morning announced it did not require Mr. Sanderson to appear after all.
The decision to cancel Mr. Sanderson’s appearance came amid claims the former Cayman Islands judge has been sent confidential Operation Tempura documents containing unspecified allegations against him; that local attorneys had protested his return to the Cayman bench to Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and Governor Stuart Jack; and that Mrs. Levers in 2007 received anonymous phone calls warning that Mr. Sanderson was returning to Cayman and was going to ‘destroy her’.
Justice Levers had earlier told the chief justice that she was afraid of Mr. Sanderson and in a 2007 memo to Mr. Smellie, indicated she was taking the threats seriously.
‘The calls were to the effect that Mr. Dale Sanderson QC has said that anyone who crosses him in the Cayman Islands would not survive,’ Mrs. Levers said in the memo to Mr. Smellie. ‘As he was not in the Island and I did not think he would necessarily do anything about it (and) as he was your friend, I did not mention it to you.
“It has now been brought to my attention, however, that he may come to act (as a judge in the Cayman Islands) and, if that be the case, I would be grateful if, perhaps, this can be placed on my file in the event that (anything) untoward transpires,’ she wrote.
‘I should be grateful if you would keep this confidential and I write simply because I need to have you formally notified. I do not wish to have anything done about it, but, if the occasion arises, then my family and/or I will have this on record,’ the memo concluded.
Addressing the issue of the Operation Tempura documents, counsel assisting the tribunal, Timothy Otty QC, said Mr. Sanderson had indicated there are ‘a number of serious inaccuracies’ in them. Mr. Otty said Mr. Sanderson is seeking independent legal advice ‘given the sensitivities of the matters they address’.
Operation Tempura was a UK Metropolitan Police investigation into possible illegal actions by members of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and Cayman’s judiciary.
While no details were read out in court about the content of the Operation Tempura documents, the tribunal heard evidence that senior attorneys in Cayman – including Wayne Panton and now Grand Court Justice Charles Quin – had expressed concerns about Mr. Sanderson’s conduct and had raised doubts about whether he was suitable to appear as a judge in this jurisdiction.
Announcing Tuesday that the tribunal will not require Mr. Sanderson to appear, Sir Andrew said the tribunal did not wish to address rumours and allegations against him made in statements received by the tribunal, adding that the ‘antagonism and animosity’ between the two judges does not play a part in the enquiry.
Justice Levers’ attorneys have accused the Vancouver-based QC of being part of a conspiracy with other Canadian court reporters to destroy Mrs. Levers’ relationship with Chief Justice Smellie and to undermine her tenure as a Grand Court judge.
Mr. Sanderson was a full-time Grand Court judge in the Cayman Islands from 2000 – 2003 and returned in an acting capacity up until 2007.
The tribunal has heard repeated claims of bad blood between Justice Levers and Mr. Sanderson and tribunal documents stated that Mrs. Levers had made claims Mr. Sanderson was involved in bringing firearms onto Grand Cayman.
Mr. Brodie indicated Monday that the issue of firearms was one of five areas he proposed to question the Canadian attorney on, although Campbells Attorney Kirsten Houghton objected to Mr. Sanderson’s conduct being questioned, warning the tribunal is ‘not … about Justice Sanderson and his conduct’.
Mr. Brodie pointed out that part of the case against Justice Levers is that she spread rumours about other judges – a charge that she denies.
‘If one is going to make that kind of allegation, plainly the foundation of the rumours is something that has got some materiality,’ he said. ‘You cannot talk about rumours without identifying what the rumours are supposed to be.
‘That is quite different from alleging the rumour is correct and, certainly, Madam Justice Levers made it perfectly clear that she makes no allegations against the chief justice, as far as the rumours are concerned, or Justice Sanderson, but the rumours are there.’
Opening the tribunal last week, Sir Andrew was at pains to emphasise that while a number of complaints were made against various judges in the tribunal’s preliminary stages, Justice Levers did not seek to prove the truth of those rumours.
‘It is very important that no credence should be given to any of those rumours,’ Sir Andrew said.
Lawyers at the tribunal have also been at pains to avoid any public mention of the various rumours set out in statements to the tribunal and other documents.
On one occasion Monday, Mr. Otty cut off a witness that was about to mention a rumour Mrs. Levers had discussed with her about Grand Court Judge Alexander Henderson.
The woman, courts listing officer Yasmin Ebanks, had said ‘She told me that she heard that Justice Henderson and his wife ….’ but was cut off by Mr. Otty.
Mrs. Ebanks added: ‘(They) were asked to leave their apartment,’ without giving further explanation.
Compass reporter Norma Connolly contributed to this report.