Cresswell back in town

| 19/12/2008

(CNS): All eyes will be on the Grand Court on Monday when Sir Peter Cresswell is expected to return to the Cayman Islands to hear the case to have the arrest of Justice Alex Henderson (left) overturned. In the same way that he quashed the search warrants in October in his first damning ruling, Henderson’s legal team will be hoping Cresswell will declare the arrest itself unlawful.

Literally days before Christmas, on 22 December, Henderson could see his wish list fulfilled when Ramon Alberga QC, Shaun McCann and Kirsten Houghton appear on his behalf to have the decision to arrest him by Martin Bridger, the Senior Investigating Officer for the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT), quashed just as the warrants to search his home and office signed by Carson Ebanks, JP, were also quashed.

In his first ruling against SPIT, Cresswell described Bridger’s decision as a “nuclear option” and said it was the “gravest abuse of the process."

Given both Cresswell’s opinions over Bridger’s actions and the governor’s recent admission of mistakes in the investigation, one legal expert told CNS that it is unlikely that the legal representatives for SPIT would be able to defend the arrest, although they are likely to insist that the mistakes were as a result of poor advice rather than bad faith. However, it is usual in such cases for the presiding judge to request an open apology from the respondents in court, which would go someway to mitigating the damages, the legal expert said.

If Henderson is successful in the quest to have the arrests declared unlawful, his legal team will be seeking to have a consolidated damages hearing for both the arrest and the warrants, CNS has learned. The costs for Operation Tempura, as the investigation has been dubbed, are already said to be in excess of $4 million and any damages awarded to Henderson will be added to the already hefty bill to be paid from the coffers of the Cayman Islands government, which is already beginning to feel the financial pinch of the global recession.

Meanwhile, James Smith, the new Acting Commissioner who took up the post on 1 December, has still not offered a statement regarding the continuation of Operation Tempura and whether or not Bridger and SPIT will remain in Cayman any longer. While David George, the previous Acting Commissioner, believed himself to be unconnected to the investigation until he found himself in front of Sir Peter at the last hearing and realised that he was an additional party, Smith declared that he has full decision making power over SPIT. CNS has learned that Smith, who was Bridger’s senior officer at the Metropolitan Police in London, has been in extensive consultation with the SPIT leader and a statement is expected before Christmas.

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