UK uses data protection rules to block Governor Choudhury details

The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has used data protection rules to block access to an open records request seeking information about staff complaints made against Cayman Islands Governor Anwar Choudhury.

Following Mr. Choudhury’s temporary removal from office, the Cayman Compass submitted a Freedom of Information request to the U.K. seeking copies or a written summary of staff complaints made against the governor before his withdrawal on or about June 12.

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The foreign office confirmed it does hold information relevant to the Compass request, but declined to release any details.

“The information you have requested is personal data related to third parties, the disclosure of which would contravene one of the data protection principles,” according to a letter received by the U.K. Central FOI Unit Wednesday.

The first principle of data protection used by the European Union and the U.K. states that all personal data must be processed “lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals.”

“It is the fairness aspect of this principle which, in our view, would be breached by disclosure,” the FOI unit stated.

In the six weeks since Governor Choudhury was removed to the U.K., the foreign office has released no information regarding the reasons for its actions.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said he was informed by Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon on June 12 that the foreign office intended to make no public statement regarding the governor’s temporary withdrawal. Mr. McLaughlin’s office then made its own statement on the matter, bringing it to the public’s attention.

Multiple government sources contacted by the Cayman Compass since Mr. Choudhury’s sudden removal indicated that complaints had been made internally within the Governor’s Office in Cayman and concerned his behavior while in office.

Other media reports in the U.K. stated that Mr. Choudhury “abused” staff and had gotten involved in a “drunken row” with his mother-in-law during his brief time in Cayman. The Compass has been unable to independently confirm those reports.

It is now expected that the U.K. review of the complaints made against Mr. Choudhury will be further delayed because of the death of the governor’s mother earlier this month.

Both Mr. McLaughlin and Acting Governor Franz Manderson have declined to comment further on the matter since June 13.

The Compass initially made its request to the Cayman Islands government, but it was determined that the U.K. held the complaint records rather than Cayman.

Using data protection rules to deny an open records request in Cayman could not currently be done because data protection legislation will not come into force in the territory until next year. The Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law currently defines personal information, but allows certain personal records to be released as long as it is determined to be in the public’s interest.

Cayman’s Data Protection Law, when it comes into effect, will place much greater restrictions on the use of personal information when it come into force, including details of people’s names, religions, occupations, sexual orientation and financial records.