Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said Thursday that he believes the U.K. government is “constitutionally wrong” in the way its representatives are handling advice from members of the National Security Council – the law enforcement oversight body chaired by the British Overseas Territory’s governor.
The body, which consists of elected government members and private sector appointees, has met just three to four times over the past year, the premier said, and few suggestions, if any, from local representatives appear to have been implemented.
Mr. McLaughlin said he did not wish for his comments to be taken as direct criticism of Governor Helen Kilpatrick or “how she was managing things.” However, he indicated the “awkward” situation created by the current state of affairs regarding the direction of law enforcement in the territory “is not a good fit anymore.”
Governor has ultimate responsibility
Cayman’s Constitution Order, 2009, gives the governor ultimate responsibility for policing and national security matters, which are to be operationally directed by the police commissioner. However, the governor is expected to act in accordance with the advice of the National Security Council on policy matters, the premier said.
“The view has been taken that this council was only advisory in nature,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It doesn’t matter what the members of the council say.”
Mr. McLaughlin said in his view, “that is constitutionally wrong.”
“The result of the way the game is played now is that … the elected government doesn’t exercise any influence over national security policy,” the premier continued. “I think that is a huge mistake on the part of the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
Elected government ‘should stay out’
Mr. McLaughlin said operational details of policing should be left to whoever is the next police commissioner and that the elected government should stay out of such matters.
For instance, during Thursday’s Legislative Assembly Finance Committee meeting, it was suggested by East End MLA Arden McLean that Grand Cayman’s eastern districts receive 24-7 on-site policing in the district, adding staff to the RCIPS to ensure that occurred, if necessary.
Mr. McLaughlin said while the government supported round-the-clock policing, there was no indication at the moment that police staffing levels overall were inadequate.
The premier said a review of the RCIPS, to be directed by the next police commissioner, would help in sorting out some of those issues.
“I don’t know that the answer to all of these issues is necessarily more resources, which is a constant refrain,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It may well be a different approach in terms of structure or the way the service is administered [is needed].
“If we come through this review process and the government is persuaded that additional resources are something that is needed to provide better policing … But I don’t want to preempt that exercise now.”
Opposition Leader has questions
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked Mr. McLaughlin how he expected to effect change in control of police oversight without changing the territory’s constitution.
“We can’t even ask them questions in National Security Council,” said Mr. Bush, who is also a council member.
“We could challenge their interpretation [of the council’s role] through the courts, but if we don’t get a change in attitude … as long as they want to retain this kind of control, they’ll do it,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The work needs to be done on persuading them.
“I believe that … that is something we can do without a need [for] constitutional change. It just requires political will and the [foreign office’s] assent.”