Sorry saga 
of Tempura 
inches onward

A visiting U.K. judge has sent the Operation Tempura records case back to the Cayman Islands Office of the Information Commissioner for further consideration.

The primary thrust of the Office of the Governor’s submission before Lord Justice Sir Alan Moses was that the trove of documents connected to Operation Tempura contains material defamatory of the Cayman judiciary.

We would note that no one is better positioned to seek redress, or financial restitution based on damages, than our sitting bench if indeed jurists have been defamed. An important unknown is who exactly uttered the defamatory remarks? Were they made by ordinary citizens or by highly placed public officials? If it were the latter, release of their identities could prove embarrassing indeed.

The governor’s position is ironic because U.K. officials, despite dispensing high praise in public, historically have demonstrated what appears to be a deep distrust of Cayman’s judges.
Remember, U.K. investigators unlawfully arrested Justice Alexander Henderson in September 2008 and searched his home and office. At least one other judge, we are reliably told, was also in the sights of Tempura operatives.

We at the Caymanian Compass have high regard for our chief justice and his learned colleagues, and we can only speculate why the U.K. does not appear to share that regard. Might it be that our judges are independent and beyond the U.K.’s political influence and control?

Consider Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds’s remarks during his visit this week that the U.K. has no intention of including Cayman judges in the process for approving police wiretapping warrants (now controlled by the U.K.-appointed governor and U.K.-appointed police commissioner).

While it may be facile to couch the current FOI dispute in terms of the local heroine (Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert) versus the British interlopers (Gov. Helen Kilpatrick and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), that is not a helpful representation of the Tempura issues.

In last week’s judicial review, Justice Moses sided Solomonically with Ms Dilbert by denying the governor’s argument that the presence of defamatory material should preclude disclosure of the documents while at the same time pointing the governor toward another potential escape route — a separate exemption for documents that may “prejudice the conduct of public affairs.”

Certainly his ruling has not hastened the publication of the materials.

Quite the opposite. More protracted litigation and appeals appear certain to follow.

Already gone from Cayman are Gov. Stuart Jack, who launched Operation Tempura, and Gov. Duncan Taylor, who challenged Ms Dilbert’s decision in court. The information commissioner herself has already announced her retirement within the year. The way things are going, the Tempura case likely will not be concluded during Ms Dilbert’s tenure and possibly not during the term of new Gov. Kilpatrick either.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings, is the unsettled wrongful dismissal suit of former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan.

The key question following Justice Moses’s ruling is not the simplistic “Who won?” or “Who lost?” but what is the U.K. hiding? What possibly could have taken place during Operation Tempura that was so horrible that the U.K. would expend so much time, effort and expense to suppress it?