Op Tempura report withheld

FOI Commissioner says police should reconsider

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A report compiled by the former
chief investigator of the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation
has been withheld from public release under Cayman’s Freedom of Information
Law.

The report, drafted by retired UK police
officer Martin Bridger in part to explain the 2008 arrest of Grand Court
Justice Alex Henderson, was considered an exempted document under the FOI Law
since it was requested and given under the auspices of legal advice.

The report was also requested to be
used in an on-going civil court matter, namely the lawsuit of former Royal
Cayman Islands Police officer Burmon Scott against the Cayman Islands Government
for his alleged wrongful arrest by Operation Tempura investigators. Information
Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert ruled that this meant the document was also protected
from release by litigation privilege.

The report was requested under the
FOI Law by the Cayman Free Press.
The organisation appealed to the information commissioner’s office after
initially being denied access to the report by the RCIPS.

Even though Commissioner Dilbert
agreed with the police service that Mr. Bridger’s report should be exempt from
release – she urged the service to actually waive legal advice privilege and
release at least a portion of the document and others related to the Operation
Tempura investigation.  

That release should occur only
after all court matters the document is being used in were brought to a close,
at which time the litigation privilege claimed by the RCIPS in attempt to
shield the document from release would expire, the commissioner said.

Legal advice privilege is
indefinite and would have to be voluntarily waived by the police service.

“I would…encourage the RCIPS to
waive the privilege attached to this and any other related documents in due
course so that the public may receive whatever information possible to
enlighten it on Operation Tempura,” Mrs. Dilbert wrote in her ruling on the
appeal.

“This investigation was publicly
funded and therefore the public should be ultimately informed as to its
outcome.”

The information commissioner’s
ruling also cautioned that the full release of Mr. Bridger’s report might not
be possible as it could prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

“If and when possible, disclosure
of parts of this report would be in the public interest, especially as the
Operation Tempura investigation relates to allegations of significant public misconduct,”
the commissioner wrote.

The investigation known as
Operation Tempura began in September 2007 when UK police officers were called in
to investigate claims that a local newspaper publisher and a top RCIPS
commander had improperly shared confidential police information.

Those allegations were later said
to be false, but subsequent accusations led to the temporary removal of three
other top ranking RCIPS officers – all three of whom were later cleared of any
allegations of criminal wrong-doing.

A deputy police commissioner and a
former Cayman Islands MLA were cleared of criminal charges filed against them
in connection with the Operation Tempura probe last year.

Costs for the entire investigation,
including lawsuit settlements paid out on behalf of the wrongfully arrested
Justice Henderson, have been estimated at close to $10 million.

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Mrs. Dilbert
Photo: File

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