SPITtakes centre stage at Grand Court opening

| 08/01/2009

(CNS): The official ceremonial opening of the Grand Court for 2009 was dominated by the issues relating to the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT) and Operation Tempura. The Chief Justice Anthony Smellie criticized SIO Martin Bridger directly and presidents of both the Caymanian Bar Association and the Cayman Law Society criticized the arrest of Justice Alex Henderson, questioned the investigation and called on the governor to reaffirm his support for the judiciary. Smellie was particularly emphatic in his condemnation of Henderson’s arrest as well as Bridger’s public statements.

“The regrettable, unlawful and ill-conceived arrest of Justice Henderson remains a subject of sustained public criticism and concern,” the CJ Anthony Smellie said, adding that the legal profession should demand full accountability from all persons responsible. “The misconduct alleged in the arrest was not and could not have amounted to an offence in the first place. Not only was the arrest therefore unlawful, it was also without any reasonable or proper basis. It is fundamentally important that the public should understand this, otherwise the impression might linger that although misconduct in public office may not be an arrestable offence, some such offence was nonetheless involved,” Smellie stated.

He noted that there was serious concern regarding the public statements made by Bridger in relation to the publication of the judgments which refused search warrants for the Operation Tempura investigation.  “Those judgments, like all judgments of the Court, immediately became public documents in the absence of any application and any order granted to embargo their publication. No such application was made. It seems this failing, if such it was, occurred because of yet another misunderstanding of the law – although it is in essence the same in Cayman as in England – relating to such matters.”

Smellie went on to criticize Bridger’s statement on 9 October 2008 seeking to bring into question what Bridger had described as the CJ’s authorization of the publication of the judgments.  “That, it must be said, was neither exemplary nor professional behaviour on the part of a police officer whose sworn duty requires him to respect the Courts and to observe the laws of the land. It was all the more troubling coming, as it did, from an experienced officer such as Mr Bridger. It was a matter about which I wrote immediately to H.E. the Governor, registering my concern.  I still await a response,” Smellie told the audience gathered for the ceremonial motion to open the Grand Court.

Alasdair Robertson presented the President of the Law Society Charles Jennings’ speech, which also criticized the Investigation and called on the governor to offer his support to the judiciary. He said the governor needed to confirm publicly that, with the possible exception of the upcoming Commission of Enquiry (concerning Justice Priya Levers)  he had no further problem with the judiciary, and announce unequivocally that he continues to have every confidence in the Bench and in the administration of justice in the Cayman Islands. 

“Let’s draw a line beneath it as soon as we can, hopefully reinforced by a statement of confidence in the judiciary by the governor, and move on.  We are going to have enough challenges this year not to waste further time and money on distractions like this” Jennings stated.

He noted that Justice Henderson should never have been arrested. “The fact that it did shows that aspects of the investigation were ill-advised and fundamentally misconceived.  The positive point, I suppose, is that the rule of law did at least prevail in time to save the jurisdiction and various individuals any further embarrassment and I hope we can say, in light of the recent apologies of both the visiting senior investigating officer and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, that that particular aspect of the investigation is at a close,” Jennings added.

James Bergstrom, the President of the Caymanian Bar Association, said the actions taken by the investigation team were found to have been improper, illegal and an abuse of process, and had raised real concerns aside from the improper arrest of a sitting Grand Court Judge.  Bergstrom said there had been a lack of clear oversight and direction, a lack of transparency on the subject of the investigation, a lack of proportionality regarding the action taken, and the length and cost of the investigation were also of concern.

“The consequent damage to the perception and reputation of Cayman as an international jurisdiction is, as of now, uncertain.  But the fact that much of this damage will have been caused by the world wide publicity attending the improper arrest of the judge heightensthose concerns,” Bergstrom added.

“We all patiently await the report by the investigation team and any remedial action that will be taken so we can put this behind us, move on and try to repair the damage that has been done to the administration of justice in these Islands.”

The day’s proceedings also involved a considerable reflection on the many legal issues raised in 2008, as well as the challenges facing the judiciary in the coming year.

Keep checking CNS for more reports from the Grand Court opening this week



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  1. Anonymous says:

    It was interesting to watch the response of the Acting Commissioner of Police and his wife to the three speakers. Both were pulling faces and shaking their heads in vigorous disagreement to the comments, particularly those of the CJ.

    This bodes poorly for future relations between the RCIPS and the judiciary and suggests the new ACP was, as has already been suggested, brought in as a deniable assetfor Operation Tempura.

    The time has come for the RCIPS to be led by someone who has absolutely no connection with the UK and the ‘old boy’ network gravy train needs to be derailed ASAP.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As i have said before, those in higher ups needs a little reality check every now and then, THEY ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW, ONLY IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS! From the time Mr. Bridger started this investigation, the higher ups went on the defensive, Why would they get defensive if there is nothing to hide? This only reminds me of the third world countries and how they are controlled by just a few! Which of the higher ups is a Caymanian and is there for the betterment of the Caymanian society, money talks and everything else walks!

  3. Anonymous says:

    With regard to the previous comments, if the individual who wrote those knew of rampant corruption in these Islands, why didn’t he or she make a report to the relevant persons with names, etc.

    The fact of the matter is, Bridger and his team have been here for fifteen months now and no significant arrest has been made. The petty charges against Mr Dixon are a joke!!! These charges should have been dealt with long ago and disciplinary action carried out, if deemed necessary. The four million dollars (and counting), spent on this investigation could have been used to assist the Sister Islands with their recovery from the Hurricane. This SPIT team (and this includes Stuart Jack), should be given an ultimatum to "put up" or "shut up" and go back to the cold UK!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen!  A competent administrator understands that not every failure requires the "nurclear option," as so famously reference by Judge Cresswell. 

      I read with interest the Governor’s letter that appeared in Compass of today’s date.  He spoke about importance of now sweeping things under the carpet as a justification.  No one is suggesting that anything should be swept under the carpet — but there is something called "proportionality" in the way we deal with problems. There is also the concer, as the previous writer alluded, of dollars and "sense". 

      And what other options are there to sweeping things under the carpet? There are provisions for disciplinary action in the RCIPS, and if proper protocols do not exist to guide officers on what is acceptable discretion, then put them in place.  For the future, if we need a special ombudsman for the police, appointment someone that the public can register their concerns, complaints, general feedback on performance of police officers.

      Those actions, if necessary, will then become part of the RCIPS’ "good practice".  Compared to the "nuclear options" that now seem so popular, they will be likely more effective — not to mention saving the country literally millions (in actual costs, in lowered morale, in poor public perceptions of the Islands, etc.).

  4. Anonymous says:

    I write with sadness in my heart as a proud Caymanian. We must face facts that our country is and has been for a long time corrupt Enough is enough, its time to stop this petty bickering and get on with doing something good All I seem to read time after time is lets get rid of Bridger and his team. This country needs this investigation and the people know it. Time after time we have buried our heads in the sand and ignored whats going on around us The PPM have made their position clear – they don’t want it to happen. Why haven’t we heard Bush’s views. Why don’t thePPM want it to happen. Is Bridger getting near the truth, are all those in power afraid of what he might know and what could come out? Seems to me they may have skeletons in the cupboard. True Caymanians have finally found some people they can talk to about their problems. We must not throw away this chance for making our country better. Now yesterday you report says even the Chief Justice is attacking Bridger publicly. Do you think we can’t see through this. I thought it was pathetic for him to speak out like that. Behave with respect Chief Justice if you want us to respect the courts!!!! As to the Henderson business everyone is blaming Bridger when he’s acted on advice so you have said. Now it seems the law people here disagree with the advice given to Bridger. I say so what they got it a bit wrong. At least they are doing something instead of doing nothing. Wendy its time to start reporting the facts and not your feelings or politicians views. I know its coming up to election time but don’t make it obvious which party your supporting Wendy.


    CNS note: This commenter does not appear to understand the difference between reporting and writing commentaires. This article is about what was said at the opening of Grand Court, which we have no control over but have a duty to report on. Yesterday Wendy wrote a Viewpoint which is, by definition, a point of view and focussed on the SPIT investigation. We offer the Viewpoint section to all who have an opinion and the ability to write a commentary, including journalists.

    • Anonymous says:

      This last poster seems to have missed the results of two judicial reviews and the condemnation of Bridger’s actions.  The Chief Justice was not behaving with disrespect any more than Sir Peter Cresswell. He is speaking to uphold the rule of law in these Islands, something Mr. Bridger obviously does not care about. Similar concerns were echoed by the Presidents of the Law Society and the Bar Association on behalf of their respective associations. Does the poster suppose that all the lawyers are corrupt as well? Cabinet has an obligation to speak out where grave damage is being done to our international reputation and we are required to pay huge damages for someone else’s blunders that we cannot afford. Ms. Ledger’s article is fair comment. Time to take your head out of the sand.

      If there is corruption then we need it to be properly investigated by someone who is both competent and respects the rule of law. To abuse power in the name of investigating abuse of power is a travesty.  

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS is right — It reports what is said, regardless of anyone’s opinions or who likes or does not like what is said.  That is what journalism is all about.

      Ananymous ("with Sadness in my heart" above) also has a right to express his/her opinion — that’s freedom of expression.

      However, a little logic may be called for — it is not an "either/or" situation — that EITHER people agree with how the investigation has been going Or they have something to hide/are guilty of something.  There are other possibilities — one of which is that perhaps there have been errors of judgement and of law.

      Even though we have a right to our opinions, we must also examine the facts and maintain an open mind, rather than to cast aspersions that may or may not be true.

      On the matter of the Chief Justice’s comments, as the head of the judiciary, he is charged with upholding the law, regardless of who may or may not like it.  This is important for the public, as the Courts have a dual mandate — not just to enforce the law against people who have offended, but also to protect persons who may be falsely accused.  That is why the judiciary has to be independent and to act on the basis of law and not on the basis of "cooperating" with any other arm of the government.  Everyone needs to have this protection from the Courts, regardless of his/her position or lack therefore in society. 

      So it is not clear what "respect" the Chief Justice is failing to demonstrate.  His allegiance is to the law and to the law only.  And thank God for that — there are some countries who are not so blessed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The quicker the Cayman Islands get rid of Martin Bridger and his croonies accompanied by Stuart Jack, the better it will be for the Cayman Islands as a whole.

    Each and everyone of them are incompetent, arrogant and an outright disgrace in the discharge of their duties to the people of the Cayman Islands.

    I’m calling on the PPM and the UPD Government to put their differences aside immediately and come together on a bi-partisan basis before the next general elections, to remove this "cancerous tumor" that have left the Cayman Islands lame, weak and fighting for it’s dear life. 

    For goodness sake Kurt, Mckeeva and Alden, this is something of national importance that threatens our national security and our very existence to live as a people whom should enjoy the liberties of life and free from fear, oppresssion, unlawful prosecution and victimization.