Fight delays Kernohan lawsuit

A legal disagreement has caused months of delay in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the government by former Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan.  

And Mr. Kernohan isn’t even involved in the matter.  

According to court records obtained by the Caymanian Compass, the Cayman Islands Attorney General has filed a claim in Grand Court seeking to prevent the release of certain documents in court. Those documents are held by Martin Bridger, the former senior investigating officer of the ill-fated Operation Tempura corruption investigation.  

Precisely what those records might contain is unknown, but it’s clear the government is keen to keep them under wraps. A court hearing in the case is set for Friday (today). 

Court records filed in October 2011 state: “The grounds of this application are that, as set out in detail in the first affidavit of Vicki Ann Ellis [former Cayman Islands Solicitor General], the defendant [Mr. Bridger} has threatened to disclose in the Kernohan proceedings certain privileged documents in circumstances where the court is entitled to and should restrain him from doing so.”  

Mr. Bridger was sued along with the Cayman Islands government in a writ filed by Mr. Kernohan back in 2009, claiming that the Operation Tempura probe and actions of then-Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack cost Mr. Kernohan his contract with the RCIPS.  

Legal proceedings in Cayman last year ended up removing Mr. Jack from the lawsuit and also revealed that Mr. Bridger, who served during a portion of Operation Tempura as a paid member of the RCIPS, had been cast adrift by government to look after his own defence in the lawsuit.  

Former Acting RCIPS Commissioner James Smith was also removed from the lawsuit during the 2011 hearing.  

Mr. Kernohan’s attorneys declined to talk about the matter on record when contacted by the Caymanian Compass last month. However, they did acknowledge that their client’s claim was being held up by matters outside their control.  

By a letter dated 27 March 2008, Mr. Jack placed Mr. Kernohan on required leave along with two other former RCIPS officers who became embroiled in the Operation Tempura probe. The writ filed by Mr. Kernohan’s attorneys states this was unlawful and in breach of the contract, which contained no term permitting the governor to do so. 

The letter included a condition that Mr. Kernohan could not leave the island, which amounted to false imprisonment, his lawyers claimed. The former police commissioner was eventually fired after he refused to return to Cayman on Mr. Jack’s orders.  

 

Bridger’s complaint  

Although it remained unclear what information Mr. Bridger wished to release during the Kernohan lawsuit proceedings, it was reported by the Caymanian Compass and some UK news media outlets that a 2010 complaint by Mr. Bridger and former Operation Tempura legal advisor Martin Polaine made various accusations regarding the conduct of certain members of the Cayman Islands judiciary, as well as staffers at the attorney general’s office.  

Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor dismissed all aspects of the complaint and refused to comment on it or release any details. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it did hold certain information about the initial complaint, but said the details should be exempted from release under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act.  

“Disclosure would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of international relations between the United Kingdom and the Cayman Islands, which depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the governments,” the FCO response to the open records request read. “We judge that disclosure of the information requested could lead to a loss of confidence within the international community, which could impact negatively on the Cayman Islands’ reputation and, more directly, on its financial services industry.”  

Also, the UK is concerned about “more circumspect reporting” from the overseas territories’ governors if the people in those positions feel their reports from the territories will be subject to open records requests.  

Certain sections of Mr. Bridger’s complaint have already been made public in the UK press, but the full allegations have never been aired.  

Operation Tempura was a two-year investigation of alleged misconduct and corruption within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, which eventually branched into a misconduct probe involving members of the local judiciary as well. Following an expenditure of some CI$10 million and two criminal trials involving high-profile community members, no criminal convictions were obtained.  

The complaint filed by Mr. Bridger and Mr. Polaine was made after the government closed down the Operation Tempura case, although certain individual allegations made during the course of the probe are still being reviewed by the local police.  

Mr. Polaine eventually dropped his complaint over the Operation Tempura case claiming “my life has been ruined”.  

Mr. Bridger carried on with the claim until its dismissal by Governor Taylor.  

Stuart Kernohan

Mr. Kernohan

1 COMMENT

  1. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the main subject of this story but I would like to again use this as an excuse to address the issue of the costs of the Tempura/Cealt investigations and a couple of other matters relating to them.

    The CI10 million tab quoted above only covers the initial Tempura/Cealt investigation and the Henderson settlement. The true direct and indirect costs are far higher – certainly over CI30 million and possibly even more. That is one reason why I am asking for the 2009 Tempura/Cealt audit to be re-visited and completed.

    These costs are also increasing almost daily because of both this on-going litigation cited in the story and current attempts by CIG to sort out what happened to thousands of documents missing from the initial investigations.

    The loss of these documents, which I uncovered, is significant because they apparently include sensitive material such as the identity of witnesses or informants and their contact information. Assuming they were not simply destroyed to cover up what happened, should these documents fall into the wrong hands CIG could face further litigation.

    One of the ironies of Tempura is that financial fallout from incidents like the Henderson arrest could have been avoided if basic contracting requirements had been applied. As we now know, that arrest was orchestrated by private contractors. Apart from their honorary status as RCIPS Special Constables not one of them was actually a serving police officer at the time. Despite this those contractors (including their legal advisor) were never required to provide the standard third-party indemnity needed to protect CIG from the costs of this kind of mishap. How this happened is one of a number of awkward questions that the current Governor is trying to duck but will eventually have to answer.