Report: Judge Levers ‘unfit’ for office

Attorney: Tribunal findings were ‘illegal’

The UK Privy Council has ordered the release of the entire Tribunal of Inquiry report into the conduct of suspended Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Priya Levers.

Although the document does not specifically recommend the removal of Justice Levers from the bench, it does state in its conclusion that her conduct on the bench over a number of months had shown her to be “unfit for judicial office”.

It will be up to the Privy Council to make a final decision on Mrs. Levers’ future.  

“She was in these official dealings bereft of the restraint, the moderation, the compassion, the fairness and the dignity which should typify a judge,” the tribunal report states. 

The conclusion of the 114-page report goes on to say that the justice
did not respect the rights of parties involved in various cases. 

“She
abused her freedom of expression by exhibiting blatant bias against
Jamaicans,” the tribunal report stated. “To any objective person in the
court…she was seen to undermine public confidence and trust in the
judicial system itself.”

Late Tuesday, Justice Levers’ attorney Anthony Akiwumi released a statement on her behalf claiming the tribunal’s findings were “illegal, unfair, unreasonable and unlawful”. 

Mr. Akiwumi stated that Mrs. Levers was “treated unfairly” by Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, and that the tribunal evidence did not support conclusions that Mrs. Levers had misbehaved. 

Mr. Akiwumi said the tribunal also went beyond its remit and exceeded its powers in making adverse findings. 

“It is apparent that evidence…was either blatantly incredible, melodramatic or speculative,” the attorney’s statement read. 

In the report, Mrs. Levers’ made representations based on the testimony of 30
character witnesses who described her as “careful, caring, sound, fair, impartial, attentive, courteous, dignified, and helpful”.

The justice also noted to the tribunal that she had been married to a Jamaican for 26 years, and had borne three children in that country. 

“She emphasised these matters in order to suggest that it is unlikely that she would have exhibited bias or prejudice against Jamaicans,” the report stated.

The report, according to the Privy Council – the highest legal authority the Cayman Islands is subject to – had to be released Tuesday. The order to release the report was made in mid-February. Tuesday was the absolute deadline given for releasing the report.

A spokesperson for Cayman Governor Duncan Taylor said the inquiry’s report has been released in full with just a few minor redactions to protect the identities of children involved in certain court cases.

Mrs. Levers has previously challenged the
proposed release of the report which is highly critical of her past
performance on the bench.

The Caymanian Compass submitted an open records request for that document last year.

The report was drafted following a Tribunal of Inquiry conducted in the
Cayman Islands in 2009 at the request of then-Governor Stuart Jack. The
report was completed in August 2009, but Governor Jack declined to release it at that
time.

However, court records obtained by the Caymanian Compass revealed that
Governor Jack changed his mind – partly because of the open records request – and informed Justice Levers in a letter sent 2
November, 2009 that he intended to release the report.

The initial release date for the Tribunal’s report was set for 10 November.
However, that release was delayed after Mrs. Levers’ attorneys filed for a
judicial review of the governor’s decision.

In the filing for judicial review, Mrs. Levers’ lawyers argued that the
governor’s decision was ultra vires, outside the law, and that Mr. Jack
had not given sufficient evidence as to why the Tribunal report should be
released.

A visiting judge agreed with Mrs. Levers’ attorneys and ruled that the tribunal report should be held pending the decision of the Privy Council on the matter. 

The Council is due to begin hearing the matter on 21 June in London. Justices ruled that the tribunal’s report should be made public before then.

Please see the full story in tomorrow’s Caymanian Compass…a full copy of the tribunal’s report can be viewed at http://ukincayman.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=PressR&id=22307257

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