Kernohan suit settled for undisclosed sum

Case last major legal battle in Operation Tempura

Attorneys for former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan and the Cayman Islands government have reached a settlement in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Mr. Kernohan in May 2009. 

It was understood that the terms of the settlement required a nondisclosure agreement from both parties, and, in any case, the settlement amount was not disclosed. 

The settlement was announced Friday in a joint statement issued by the Campbells law firm representing Mr. Kernohan and Attorney General Samuel Bulgin’s office, represented in the matter by the HSM Chambers law firm. 

“The Cayman Islands government and the ex-commissioner of police, Mr. Stuart Kernohan, have agreed to settle their involvement in the ongoing civil matter,” the statement read. “Mr. Kernohan served as commissioner of police from 2005-2008 and the government wishes to thank him for his commitment and service to the islands.” 

Mr. Kernohan, who was placed on required leave in March 2008 and fired by then-Governor Stuart Jack later in the year, could not be reached for comment. The former commissioner’s attorney, Shaun McCann of Campbells, declined to make any further statements. 

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Neither Mr. Bulgin nor HSM Chambers attorney Douglas Schofield returned calls seeking comment on the settlement. 

Mr. Kernohan, a Scotland native, was placed on leave following a covert search at the Cayman Net News offices in George Town on Sept. 3, 2007. Two journalists, employees of the Net News, had shared information with Mr. Kernohan and former Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Superintendent John Jones that led to the entry into the offices of Net News publisher Desmond Seales, looking for “evidence of a corrupt relationship” between publisher Seales and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis. 

It was alleged at the time that Mr. Seales had received confidential police information from Mr. Ennis, which he then passed along to contacts at Northward Prison, potentially putting police operations at risk and officers’ lives in danger. 

Following the Sept. 3, 2007, search, a team of U.K. police officers, led by Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger, was called in to assist in the probe. Mr. Bridger said his officers quickly concluded the allegations against Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis were unfounded but had concerns that Mr. Kernohan and Mr. Jones acted improperly in directing the search. 

Neither Mr. Jones nor Mr. Kernohan was ever arrested or charged in relation to the subsequent investigation, which came to be known as Operation Tempura. The two were eventually exonerated in the investigation, and Mr. Jones was reinstated to his chief superintendent’s post, serving three more years at RCIPS before leaving Cayman. 

In fact, as early as April 2008, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie had issued a 51-page ruling in response to a warrant application to search the home and offices of Mr. Kernohan and Mr. Jones. Chief Justice Smellie referred to the request as a “fishing expedition” and, in denying the request, added, “there is no reasonable basis for concluding on careful application of the law, that the Com. Pol [Kernohan] or Chief Supt. Jones committed any criminal offense.” 

Mr. Kernohan’s lawsuit was filed in May 2009 against then-Governor Jack, the attorney general Samuel Bulgin, then-Police Commissioner James Smith and Mr. Bridger, seeking unspecified damages over the Operation Tempura investigation. Mr. Jack and Mr. Smith were eventually dropped from the lawsuit. However, Mr. Bridger and the attorney general were left on as defendants. 

It was not clear by Friday afternoon whether the settlement between government and Mr. Kernohan involved Mr. Bridger, or whether Mr. Kernohan’s attorneys were still pursuing claims against Tempura’s former chief investigator. Contacted in the U.K. on Friday evening, Mr. Bridger said he was unaware of any settlement of the lawsuit.  

In a statement following the filing of his initial writ, Mr. Kernohan said, “I have waited too long a period to be exonerated and [was] subjected to a process and actions from individuals who have severely damaged my reputation internationally… The individuals responsible for this fiasco will not walk away without being held rightfully accountable for what they have done.” 

Since 2009, the legal machinations involving the lawsuit have played out in both the U.K. and the Cayman Islands, including a 2011 directions hearing in the Cayman Islands where U.K. High Court Judge Sir Alan Moses admitted to being “bewildered” by the twists and turns of the Tempura investigation. 

Last year, Mr. Kernohan sent a written statement to the U.K. Metropolitan Police Service, supporting claims made by Mr. Bridger that British police investigators looking into matters related to Operation Tempura between 2007 and 2009 were misled by former governor Jack and Mr. Bulgin. Both Mr. Jack and Mr. Bulgin have strenuously denied all such accusations. 

The seven-page statement from Mr. Kernohan supported claims that he and his attorneys previously made, namely that former Cayman Islands Governor Jack knew of, and authorized, the covert entry into the offices of Cayman Net News in September 2007.  

However, Mr. Kernohan’s statement to the U.K. Met on April 10, 2013, contained significant new details alleging a level of involvement by former governor Jack, up to and including authorization of the use of Net News employees to perform a covert search as part of the investigation.  

“If [the governor] had admitted that, I would’ve been gone in two weeks,” Mr. Bridger said last year. 

As it turned out, the retired U.K. lawman ended up staying in Cayman from September 2007 to April 2009 looking into allegations of corruption in the local police service. Two people were charged in connection with the Operation Tempura probe, but no convictions were secured.  

Mr. Bridger’s criminal complaint was not dealt with by the U.K. Met, which cited conflicts of interest in the Tempura case and recommended passing the allegations along to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Mr. Bridger has since filed a criminal complaint with the RCIPS along the same lines of what was filed in Britain, but the local police service has not responded publicly to Mr. Bridger’s claims. 

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  1. It makes a change to read about something positive coming out of Tempura for once. Mr Kernohan must be congratulated on his determination to force this matter to a settlement and his refusal to be deterred by what at times looked like blatant delaying tactics.

    However, this does seem to raise a few questions including –

    1. Why it has taken so long? The claim was filed in May 2009. In May 2011 Justice Moses clearly felt it was ready to be dealt with by mediation but the matter was dragged out for another three years.

    2. How much has this all cost? Based on amounts being talked about for some of the hearings my estimate would be that more money had been thrown away defending the claim than it has just cost to settle it.

    3. Why the non-disclosure (gagging in plain English) agreement? Maybe the answer to that relates to 2. above?

  2. I don’t comprehend why this is ‘an undisclosed sum’. If this is public money
    Should it not be accountable to the public?

    I am going to assume that in this case undisclosed = an awful lot

    Funny how money can make principles of ‘rightfully holding those accountable for damaging your reputation’ go away isn’t it Mr Kernohan? The losers in this case appear to be the innocent public being robbed of money
    and seemingly we have no recourse.

  3. It might be interesting to see how FOI regards a request for details of the legal costs.

    The actual damages settlement is almost certainly exempt but, based on numerous previous precedents, we ought to be able to find out how much the various hearings cost CIG.