Attorneys acting on behalf of Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor’s office have sought to bar the public from witnessing a judicial review proceeding that concerns the release of a complaint made against various local government officials involved in the ill-fated Operation Tempura investigation of 2008 and 2009.
In filings sent to the Caymanian Compass, attorneys for the governor’s office have requested for the hearing to be held “in camera” [privately] and for any submissions made to exclude other parties to protect the confidentiality of the records requested.
“It is necessary to modify the court’s procedure in these proceedings as otherwise the procedure would frustrate the purpose of the proceedings,” the legal filings in support of the governor’s judicial review application read. “The Freedom of Information Law would be fundamentally undermined if, in order to determine whether information was exempt from disclosure, the court brought about the disclosure of that information in any event.”
Similar arrangements have been made in other cases before courts in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and Canada, attorneys argued.
Governor Taylor’s office is the first government entity in more than four years to take Cayman Islands Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert to court over a decision she made regarding the public release of government records.
An English high court judge on 8 February stayed the release of a complaint filed by Operation Tempura’s former chief investigating officer. The decision also served to withhold from public view a 185-page review of that complaint, which cost Cayman Islands taxpayers more than $300,000 to produce.
The judicial review will now move ahead and Mrs. Dilbert’s decision ordering the release of the records will be stayed until that review, according to Justice Sir Alan Moses’ ruling.
Governor Taylor has claimed the information commissioner’s decision to release certain records related to the Operation Tempura corruption probe was simply an unreasonable one. His claim is made in an application seeking judicial review of Information Commissioner Dilbert’s November order that sought the release of former Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger’s complaint and the governor’s evaluation of the complaint.
The key issue in Governor Taylor’s judicial review application – likely to have significant importance to the territory’s Freedom of Information Law – involves section 54(1) of the FOI Law that states: “Nothing in this law shall be construed as authorising the disclosure of any official record (a) containing any defamatory matter or (b) the disclosure of which would be in breach of confidence or of intellectual property rights.”
Governor Taylor has said that the complaint filed by former Operation Tempura legal adviser Martin Polaine and then carried forward by Mr. Bridger, makes certain claims about sitting members of the Cayman Islands judiciary that are untrue and that could potentially be defamatory. A full copy of the complaint has never been released.