Cayman’s Freedom of Information Office has warned the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service that it potentially could fall afoul of contempt of court rules if it refuses to proceed with an open records request filed by the Caymanian Compass.
A ruling made by Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert on 9 June instructed the RCIPS to conduct an internal review of an information request made by the Compass after the police service initially refused to release that information.
That request was for “a copy of the autopsy report and complete RCIPS case file regarding the investigation into the death of [a named person], in accordance with section 34 of the Freedom of Information Law”.
The initial request for the information was made on 10 November, 2010 – eight months ago.
Mrs. Dilbert said the request for internal review did not mean the records the newspaper asked for were public documents. She said the open records process should be followed through to help make that determination.
“This decision directs the RCIPS to process the request as required by the law, but due to the inordinate delays, within the shorter time frame of 10 days,” Mrs. Dilbert said.
Ten days from the 9 June decision ordering the internal review, on 19 July, the information commissioner’s office had received nothing. Indeed, as of 23 June – the date the information commissioner warned of the possibility of contempt, no response had been received.
The Compass did receive a response in the case dated 14 June from RCIPS Information Manager Raymond Christian.
“Please note that your request for an internal review concerning [the case] has been forwarded to the [police] commissioner’s office,” Mr. Christian wrote. “You will receive a response from the commissioner’s office on or before 19 June, 2011.”
Nothing regarding the internal review of the request was sent to the Compass as of Wednesday, 29 June.
“The deadline for completion of the internal review was 19 June, 2011,” Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers said. “To the best of our knowledge, to date, no such internal review has been undertaken.”
The police department had also not advised whether it would seek judicial review of the information commissioner’s ruling, as it is allowed to do under the law.
The initial review of the 10 November, 2010, Compass open records request by the information commissioner found that the RCIPS was in violation of several provisions contained within the FOI Law. The review also found the RCIPS had not followed the FOI Law with regard to a separate information request that involved pay raises given to police department employees.
The information about the police raises was released to the public. No decision has been made on the request for the autopsy report and the police case file in the other matter, partly due to delays in an internal review being done.