Problems persist in Turks years after UK intervention

John Masters
John Masters

Several years after the U.K. seized control of the Turks and Caicos Islands administration amid a criminal investigation into high-level members of the former government, problems persist in the administration of day-to-day justice in the islands, the Cayman Compass has learned.

The islands’ chief prosecutor confirmed last week, following inquiries by the press there, that a review by the Turks and Caicos Integrity Commission had begun into certain activities at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The public prosecutor’s office is not involved in the criminal case against a number of high-ranking members of former Premier Michael Misick’s government. That trial, which began in January, is being handled by the U.K. Special Investigation and Prosecution Team.

Director of Public Prosecutions John Masters said in a press release that there is a separate integrity commission probe ongoing in which a complaint appears to have been made against him.

“It comes as no surprise that such a complaint has been made because I have made a lot of changes to unsatisfactory practices that have become entrenched in the office of the DPP,” Mr. Masters said in a statement. “There has been a culture of internal bullying and self-interest by a few members of staff and, I emphasize, only a few members of staff.”

The nature of the integrity commission’s inquiry has not been revealed. Integrity Commission Director Eugene Otuonye declined to comment on Friday.

In a press release sent March 18, Mr. Masters listed a number of the “unsatisfactory practices” in the office to which he was appointed last year to lead. Those are alleged to include:

A prosecutor told a youth offender waiting in the dock for a judge to hear his case that the youth’s father “should beat him”

A prosecutor, in open court, asked a judge for personal legal advice concerning enforcement of a debt

It is alleged that interviews were being conducted with victims of serious offenses while a child was sitting under the desk in the interview room “playing with a Game Boy [Nintendo hand-held video game console]”

An expert witness from the U.S. was apparently left to their own devices in a car park after being brought in for a criminal case. No hotel room had been booked

There were allegations at one stage that Mr. Masters had run the prosecutor’s office “like a plantation owner” and that his conduct amounted to “encouraging slavery”

There were allegations that a prosecutor “forced junior staff to fast and pray” because they did not like administrative decisions Mr. Masters had made.