Criminal case from Operation Tempura still active

More than seven years after it began, at least one investigation related to the Operation Tempura police corruption probe remains active, according to Grand Court testimony Tuesday.

The revelation was made during a court case that pits the Cayman Islands governor against the Information Commissioner’s Office. The commissioner’s office has ordered the governor to release certain records related to the ill-fated Tempura case. The governor’s attorneys are arguing that the records should not be made public for various reasons.

The records in question relate to a 2010 complaint filed by the Tempura probe’s former legal adviser, Martin Polaine, which was carried forward later on by the investigation’s senior officer, Martin Bridger. The complaint, which alleges misconduct by certain Cayman Islands judicial and legal figures involved in the Tempura probe, was dismissed by then-Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, who said the claims in Mr. Bridger’s complaint amounted to defamation. Mr. Taylor used a 185-page evaluation of the complaint, done by U.K. attorney Ben Aina, to aid in his dismissal of the claim.

Former Cayman Islands journalist and U.K. citizen John Evans filed an open records request under the Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law in February 2012 for both the complaint and the governor’s evaluation of it. The governor’s office denied the request, a decision that was later overturned by the information commissioner.

Mr. Taylor challenged the information commissioner’s decision by way of judicial review. That case, following a first hearing in late 2013 when it was sent back to the information commissioner’s office for further consideration, headed back in court this week.

Representing the governor’s office in the open records matter, Ian Paget-Brown, QC, argued Monday that the Cayman Islands court should no longer even be hearing the issue, since the person who filed the request, Mr. Evans, withdrew it in March 2013, and that the documents sought belonged to the U.K. government in any case.

In the event that a judge were to grant access to the records, Mr. Paget-Brown questioned to whom those records would be given.

“[When Mr. Evans withdrew his request], that should have been the end of the matter,” Mr. Paget-Brown told the court.

Visiting Judge Timothy Owen argued this point, asking why the court should not expect to be hearing the same matter all over again when another applicant – perhaps a local newspaper – would file a new request for the same information.

“Is that what the governor wants?” Mr. Justice Owen asked. Mr. Paget-Brown responded that, at the time a new request was filed for the information, new exemptions under the Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law could be used, including those under Section 16 of the law, which apply to ongoing criminal investigations or civil or criminal matters before the court.

Justice Owen asked why the governor’s office had not raised such concerns previously in the case.

“Because nobody knew about the investigation,” Mr. Paget-Brown said.

The precise nature of the investigation referred to was not discussed in court Tuesday.

However, Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines did allude in August 2014 to the possibility that Mr. Bridger, Tempura’s former commanding officer, could be in some legal trouble over certain statements he made in the case, particularly criminal allegations Mr. Bridger made against the territory’s former governor and current attorney general.

“Whilst the criminal allegations made by Mr. Bridger failed, were unsupported and unproved after analysis of all of the available evidence, it is correct to say that his account and publishing of data within the media led to counter allegations of criminal conduct being made in relation to his conduct,” the police statement, attributed to Mr. Baines, read. “Those allegations remain under investigation and are subject to continued inquiry.”

The police service did not specify who made the counter allegations against Mr. Bridger.

Mr. Bridger has said previously there would come a time when he would have to be interviewed as part of the RCIPS investigation. “I would be prepared to surrender myself for interview in the Cayman Islands, at a mutually agreed time, because that would then allow me to share some of the evidence which the commissioner has not seen in making his assessment and justify why I originally made the allegation of crime.”