'Element of desperation' to bar Tempura records

Martin Bridger hears he may face criminal investigation

The man who was brought to Cayman nearly a decade ago to weed out corruption in the local police force now faces the possibility of criminal charges being filed against him in the fallout from the ill-fated Operation Tempura, a court hearing revealed Wednesday.  

Martin Bridger, Tempura’s former chief investigator, was present in courtroom No. 5 to hear that he remained under investigation over allegations concerning a criminal complaint he made to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in 2013.  

The complaint, which was found to be unwarranted following a review by local police, made various accusations against former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack and Attorney General Samuel Bulgin over their respective roles in the corruption investigation.  

Now Mr. Bridger may face allegations against him related to those accusations, which were supported at the time by Cayman’s former police commissioner and the former chief superintendent of the RCIPS.  

Mr. Bridger declined to comment Wednesday about the court proceedings or the criminal investigation against him.  

Judicial review 

The information came out during a judicial review hearing to determine whether certain records related to Operation Tempura should be released to the public. The hearing involves a challenge from the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office to an order made by Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers stating that the governor should release those records. 

The criminal investigation against Mr. Bridger was used as one of the reasons why those records should not be released to the public. Lead counsel for the governor’s office, Ian Paget-Brown, QC, said releasing the records might prejudice any potential jury called in Cayman to hear the criminal case against Mr. Bridger, if one was filed.  

‘Late stage’ 

Attorneys for Mr. Liebaers’s office argued that the “law enforcement exemption” was being raised at a very late stage in the open records case, which began three years ago following a Freedom of Information request for the Operation Tempura records made by U.K. citizen and former Cayman Islands-based journalist John Evans. The criminal investigation apparently did not begin until after the information commissioner had initially ordered the records to be released.  

“There’s an element of desperation to make sure this report is not disclosed,” said attorney Monica Carss-Frisk, representing the information commissioner. “One should regard with a degree of skepticism … any argument that is put forward now.”  

Visiting Grand Court Justice Timothy Owen asked Ms. Carss-Frisk whether that remark meant he should find “there is no genuine line of investigation” with regard to Mr. Bridger.  

The attorney responded that, while there obviously is a “live” case, it might not be enough to prevent the release of the records in a matter where a large amount of information is already in the public domain and regarding records that have little to do with the current investigation against Mr. Bridger.  

“It is simply not enough,” Ms. Carss-Frisk said. “Well, it’s difficult for me to ignore,” Justice Owen replied.  

FOI records sought 

The records being sought via the Freedom of Information Law in the Grand Court judicial review hearing are a 2010 complaint Mr. Bridger carried forward to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding the behavior of certain judicial and legal figures who were involved in the Operation Tempura case. In addition, the request seeks to obtain a 185-page evaluation of that complaint by a U.K. attorney at the request of the governor’s office.  

Then-Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor dismissed the 2010 complaint by Mr. Bridger, stating it was groundless and that it amounted to defamatory comments concerning sitting members of the Cayman Islands judiciary.  

Mr. Liebaers has argued that the release of a more detailed report dismissing those allegations might serve to quell ongoing public speculation about various matters related to Tempura and clear the name of the local judiciary.  

Mr. Paget-Brown said during Wednesday’s hearing that there seemed to be the opportunity for both parties to come to an agreement over releasing a portion of the evaluation completed on behalf of the governor, and that he wished such a step would have been taken much earlier in the process.  

“[Former Information Commissioner] Jennifer Dilbert suggested it right at the beginning, nobody took her up on it,” Mr. Paget-Brown said. “I do believe it’s an exercise that could have been done.”  

Justice Owen said Wednesday he would take about a month to make his decision regarding the records’ release and would communicate the ruling to all parties when it was completed.  

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Martin Bridger leaves court on Wednesday afternoon. – PHOTO: JEWEL LEVY
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  1. If Martin Bridger is going to be prosecuted why don’t we wait and have all of this evidence aired out in open court.
    I am still trying to figure out what would have, or who could have caused such a conspiracy theory in this investigation.
    There is more to this saga than we know, so let the bell ring and the chips fall where they may.
    It will however boil down to the same old same old, Government spending all this money only to probably get sued and pay out millions again.

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  2. Two questions –

    1. What is Martin Bridger actually supposed to be doing at this hearing and who paid his expenses? As far as I can see he’s had no role at all in the FOI process to date and all he’s doing now is providing tacit support for the FCO’s arguments for non-disclosure.

    2. Where is John Evans the original FOI applicant and appellant? Shouldn’t he be present?

    There’s something distinctly odd going on here.

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  3. David, the reason I wasn’t there is because I disagree with the way both the ICO and their lawyers have approached the whole FOI appeal so, in my opinion, they shut me out.

    I have more experience of presenting FOI appeals before Tribunals in the UK then either the staff of the ICO or their lawyers. I also have hundreds of documents from the UK FOI appeal, which was stopped for legal reasons, that show exactly the tactics the FCO were to employ during the Judicial Review (JR) process. In fact the documents alone could have saved hours of work and court time if they’d been used.

    Despite this my involvement was not welcomed and in what I regard as a daft leave it to the professionals policy was actively discouraged.

    When the bills are settled the two JRs will probably cost close to 1million. I’ve presented FOI appeals against senior police officers in the UK (who were backed by their legal team) for not much more than the cost of a decent cup of coffee.

    There’s something very wrong with your FOI Law when it allows highly-paid law firms to cash in on what is a fundamental right of access to public information.

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