‘Operation Tempura’ complaint at issue
Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor is expected to file a request Monday seeking judicial review of an order his office received to release a complaint by former “Operation Tempura” chief investigator Martin Bridger.
The order to release the complaint came in a November decision by Cayman Islands Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert. The governor’s request seeking judicial review is believed to be the first time one of Mrs. Dilbert’s orders has been challenged in court since the territory’s Freedom of Information Law took effect in January 2009.
“After taking legal advice, the governor has decided to seek leave for judicial review of the Information Commissioner’s decision,” governor’s office staffer Tom Hines said Friday. “We will be filing the application on Monday, 7 January.”
A judicial review request is the legal procedure anyone can use to challenge a decision by the Information Commissioner before the Cayman Islands Grand Court. The review process can be used in cases where Mrs. Dilbert has declined to release documents as well as in cases – such as the one involving the Operation Tempura complaint – where she has ordered them to be released.
In this case, Mrs. Dilbert ordered not only the release of Mr. Bridger’s complaint, but also said that Governor Taylor’s office should release a response that evaluated the claims put forth in that complaint.
The governor said the complaint was without merit following the issuance of a 185-page review done on it by United Kingdom-based Queen’s Counsel Benjamin Aina.
Previous open records requests for the complaint and Mr. Aina’s subsequent review of it filed by the Caymanian Compass and former Cayman Net News reporter John Evans were foiled when the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to release them on the grounds that they could prejudice relations between Britain and the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Evans also filed an open records request with the governor’s office seeking to obtain a copy of Mr. Bridger’s complaint. It was denied initially and then that denial was overturned by the information commissioner. It was Mr. Evans’ request that ultimately led to the judicial review filing by Governor Taylor’s office.
Mr. Evans said Friday that he was not surprised by Governor Taylor’s decision to seek judicial review, although he questioned what local judge would be able to hear the case since Mr. Bridger’s complaint reportedly involved allegations made against sitting members of the Cayman Islands judiciary. Governor Taylor has said those allegations were untrue and potentially libellous.
“This just raises serious questions about why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the governor’s office are so desperate to keep the whole matter under wraps,” Mr. Evans said. “Duncan Taylor must know by now that Operations Tempura and Cealt were a complete fiasco. Mr. Taylor you can, with due respect, bury your head in the sands of Seven Mile Beach and hope it all goes away, but it won’t.”
Mr. Taylor made no direct comment on the situation last week.
Operation Tempura and its subsequent spin-off investigation, dubbed “Operation Cealt”, were misconduct and corruption-related probes into various activities of Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers. The two-year, $10 million dollar Operation Tempura probe did not secure any criminal convictions against anyone for anything, but it did lead to the ouster of former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and the eventual retirement of former Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon. Mr. Kernohan is still suing the Cayman Islands government over what his lawyers said was a wrongful termination from his post. Mr. Dixon was reportedly paid a six-figure settlement as part of his agreement to retire.
The outcome of the probe once referred to as “Cealt” has never been made clear. However, since aspects of that investigation were taken over by the police service’s Anti-Corruption Unit, a number of police officers have faced discipline for unknown reasons, including a full half-dozen who were fired.
Contacted in the UK, Mr. Bridger – Operation Tempura’s senior investigating officer between September 2007 and April 2009 – said he was disappointed in the governor’s decision. Mr. Bridger has a copy of his complaint, which was initially filed by Operation Tempura legal adviser Martin Polaine and later taken up by Mr. Bridger after Mr. Polaine dropped the issue, claiming his “life had been ruined”. However, Mr. Bridger said he gave Governor Taylor his word that he would not release the complaint or the governor’s findings on it.
“To that I have held true,” Mr. Bridger said. “I am now taking legal advice, as I may join the judicial review as an interested party. I look forward to the day that my complaint and the governor’s findings are to be subjected to public scrutiny.”
Mr. Bridger was named as a defendant, along with Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin, in the lawsuit filed by Mr. Kernohan over the former police commissioner’s firing in late 2008. That lawsuit has been delayed by interminable court actions where Mr. Bulgin’s office sought to prevent the use by Mr. Bridger of certain documents related to Operation Tempura if the Kernohan lawsuit goes to trial.
Attempts to force Mr. Bridger to return certain records in his possession by the Cayman Islands attorney general’s office failed in a UK court hearing held last year. Efforts to mediate Mr. Kernohan’s lawsuit in the UK last year also did not succeed.
A similar application requiring Mr. Bridger to return the documents was heard before Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Richard Williams last year. It’s not known if any ruling on that application has been made. Mr. Bridger said he was not aware of any decision as of Friday.