Tempura records case drags on

The settlement of former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan’s lawsuit does not end all legal disputes related to the Operation Tempura case in the Cayman Islands.

Although the official order had not been released as of press time, it was understood from earlier court proceedings that U.K. Judge Timothy Owen would order Cayman Islands Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers to review, for a third time, whether certain records related to the Tempura probe should be released.

The records in question relate to a 2010 complaint initially filed by the Tempura probe’s former legal adviser, Martin Polaine, which was carried forward later by the operation’s senior investigator, 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, completed by U.K. attorney Ben Aina, QC, to aid in his dismissal of the claim.

Mr. Aina’s 185-page report cost taxpayers $335,000 to produce. It has never been made public.

Retired 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 Mr. Bridger’s 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.

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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 to court in February 2015.

Following the February hearing, Justice Owen agreed that the records should still not be released, citing the ongoing criminal investigation against Mr. Bridger by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. His ruling left it again to Mr. Liebaers to decide – for a third time – what should be done with the pending open records request.

How long an RCIPS probe involving alleged statements by Mr. Bridger might take is unknown. Eight months have passed since Police Commissioner David Baines first publicly alluded to the criminal probe, and Mr. Bridger said recently that he was not aware of any charges being filed against him in the case. Mr. Bridger was in the Cayman Islands in February and was not questioned by police at that time.

“I am aware that the information commissioner has a further decision to make in relation to the findings of my complaint made by [former Governor] Duncan Taylor,” Mr. Bridger said. “If I were asked by the information commissioner to make an affidavit in respect of those matters, I would not for one moment hesitate to do so.”

Mr. Liebaers said in March that the exemption Justice Owen cited, referred to under section 16 [b] of Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law, typically would apply only until the completion of any criminal investigation and any subsequent trial that might arise. This raises the possibility that, at the end of whatever case local police might pursue against Mr. Bridger, the “law enforcement” exemption would fall away.

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  1. I do not understand why Martin Bridger feels he needs to wait for Mr Liebaers to contact him before making a statement relating to the alleged on-going criminal investigation. If he has information relevant to the current ICO review he should volunteer it. He has been ready enough to come forward in the past so why hold back now? I have already volunteered everything I know on the matter to the ICO without waiting for any invitation and I would respectfully suggest that he does the same.

    This is the same flawed logic as when, in March 2013, Duncan Taylor offered to release the Aina report if Mr Bridger made his original complaint public. Check out – http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2013/03/13/Governor–Bridger-can-release-records/

    All we got after that was excuses.

    In fact I can see no reason why these documents could not have been accidentally leaked to the media years ago. It would have saved the people of the Cayman Islands roughly a million dollars in legal fees and the chances of the FCO being able to take any kind of retaliatory action over the leak are something rather less than zero.

    You could almost be excused for suspecting that, despite his public statements on the matter, Mr Bridger would rather see these documents kept secret. Maybe he thinks the secrecy helps to sustain the myth that people in positions of power did something wrong and fears publication will reveal the truth?