A disbarred UK attorney who claimed that his “life has been ruined” by the Operation Tempura corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands may be getting his law licence returned.
Martin Polaine acted as legal adviser between mid-2008 and 2009 for the UK investigative team led by retired UK lawman Martin Bridger. Mr. Polaine was disbarred in the UK after it was determined he advised the Tempura corruption probe on matters relating to Cayman Islands law – particularly in relation to the 2008 arrest of a sitting Grand Court judge – without having been called to the bar in the Cayman Islands.
However, Mr. Polaine has said that he “did not have to be called to the Cayman bar” to advise British investigators looking into alleged misconduct within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
Later this year, he’ll be given the chance to argue the merits of his case before the UK Bar Standards Board after an appeal of his earlier disbarment was awarded last August on what Mr. Polaine described as a “procedural deficiency”.
“[The hearing later this year] will be my opportunity to set out my case to a five-person tribunal, composed of both lawyers and lay representatives,” Mr. Polaine said.
The final outcome of Mr. Polaine’s case could prove crucial as it might impact upon rules for foreign attorneys practicing law in the Cayman Islands, and could also reflect upon decisions that were made to hire Mr. Polaine as an adviser for the Operation Tempura team in the first place.
“The [Cayman Islands] attorney general was fully aware of my position and approved my engagement,” Mr. Polaine said Thursday in a statement to the Caymanian Compass. “When it was being alleged that I should have been called to the Cayman bar, the attorney general’s chambers did nothing to clarify my position to the court.”
The Caymanian Compass contacted Attorney General Sam Bulgin on the issue Thursday, but received no response by press time.
The Compass has investigated the hiring arrangements that brought Mr. Polaine to the Cayman Islands, which he testified to in an unrelated case before the Old Bailey in London during 2011.
What was not known prior to Mr. Polaine’s testimony at the Old Bailey case was that the disbarred lawyer was hand-picked by then-UK Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner John Yates to represent Mr. Bridger’s Operation Tempura investigative team. In previous statements, the UK and Cayman Islands governments had referred to Mr. Yates’s role as one of overseer and adviser only. A strategic oversight group for Operation Tempura was set up within the Cayman Islands government ostensibly to direct the investigation’s operations. However, according to a report on Operation Tempura issued by former Cayman Islands Auditor General Dan Duguay: “We could not determine with certainty the responsibilities of the strategic oversight group, [and] at the same time, we could not find any other organisation or committee in the government that was responsible for oversight of financial management and ensuring value-for-money for these investigations.”
Mr. Yates left the Met in the aftermath of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Mr. Duguay left the Cayman Islands in 2010 after his contract was not renewed, an event which the ex-auditor general partly blamed on Operation Tempura.
When contacted about his role in Mr. Polaine’s hiring, Mr. Bridger did not deny his involvement noting that Mr. Polaine later became his business partner at a UK consultancy firm. However, Mr. Bridger said no one from the Cayman Islands side of things objected to the UK barrister’s hiring in 2008.
“I have a clear recollection that when Martin Polaine was recommended to the strategic oversight group to be the new independent legal adviser for Operation Tempura, we agreed that we should first write to Attorney General Samuel Bulgin seeking any observations he may have,” Mr. Bridger wrote. “Peter Gough, a member of the oversight group, wrote the letter to the attorney general asking whether the attorney had any views on the appointment of Mr. Polaine. Mr. Gough also enclosed the CV of Martin Polaine. I recall being shown a copy of the letter sent by Mr. Gough which had a handwritten note on it, signed and dated by the attorney [general] giving his approval of the appointment. From my recollection this would have been sometime in June 2008.”
Mr. Bridger continued: “If it were the case, as is now suggested, that Mr. Polaine did not have to be called to the bar in the Cayman Islands, then on face value it does seem to me that the courts’ criticism of Mr. Polaine and [me] in respect of this issue were unjustified. On reflection, even if in fact it were the case that Mr. Polaine should have been called to the bar, then I struggle to understand why the attorney general did not tell me that when he approved Mr. Polaine’s appointment”.
Mr. Gough did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Mr. Polaine’s written apology following the Operation Tempura team’s arrest of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson related to the role he played in advising on the judge’s arrest and search of Mr. Henderson’s home and office in September 2008.
After a judicial review, then-visiting Justice Sir Peter Cresswell determined that the search warrants used in that instance were not valid. The Crown agreed Mr. Henderson’s arrest was unlawful. Attorneys for Justice Henderson sued and later settled for CI$1.275 million in damages. Justice Henderson complained to the UK Bar Standards Board about the advice and conduct of Mr. Polaine during the course of Operation Tempura.
Mr. Polaine conceded at the time that he did advise police investigators there were reasonable grounds for the judge’s arrest on a charge of misconduct in public office, when there was insufficient evidence to justify reasonable suspicion. He conceded he failed in his professional duty to disclose all available information to Justice of the Peace Carson Ebanks when the application was made for search warrants. Mr. Polaine apologised to Mr. Ebanks and agreed he should have advised officers to make the application to a judge.
Mr. Polaine accepted at the time that he had not been called to the Cayman Bar and should have confined his advice to English law.
Asked why he failed to raise any issues during the judicial review or during his disbarment hearing in the UK, Mr. Polaine said he took the view that “it would be wrong to use the tribunal as an informal appeal” against the rulings of Mr. Justice Cresswell in the Cayman Islands.
“It seemed to me that the honourable thing to do was to accept that I was bound by those findings of fact,” he said. “Accordingly, I issued my apology.” The disbarred attorney later tried to file a complaint against various members of the Cayman Islands judiciary and the attorney general’s office in relation to Operation Tempura, but he gave up that effort claiming “my life has been ruined”. Mr. Bridger carried forward the complaint, which was reviewed and dismissed by Cayman Governor Duncan Taylor.