Legal expert calls for formal support from governor

| 16/01/2009

(CNS): In the wake of the Governor Stuart Jack’s unannounced appearance on a local radio phone-in show last week, where he offered his support for the Cayman Islands judiciary, Charles Jennings, President of the Cayman Islands Law Society, has said that while the Governor’s comments are very welcome they would be even more effective if they were made in a formal context.

One of a number of leading members of the local legal profession that have voiced their concerns about the Operation Tempura investigation and specifically the unlawful arrest of Justice Alex Henderson, Jennings, the Senior Partner at Maples and Calder, was the first to publically call on the governor to formally reconfirm his confidence in the judges and the administration of justice in the Cayman Islands. He made his request during his presentation, given at the opening of the Grand Court on Wednesday, 7 January, when the issue of the investigation dominated the proceedings.

Jennings told CNS that he welcomed the governor’s remarks as a significant step in the right direction towards maintaining public and international confidence in the courts system here, but he added that those remarks might be even more effective if stressed again by the governor in a formal context.

"No doubt a radio phone-in show is an excellent medium to deliver a message to those who happen to be listening to it at the time," Jennings said, "But after all that has happened, a statement of confidence in a jurisdiction’s judiciary by its head of state, made informally on the radio, must be sufficiently important to merit being repeated by him publicly and formally as well."

Speaking on Rooster 101’s morning talk show, hosted by Austin Harris and Ellio Solomon, the governor told the listeners at the end of the one hour segment that they could have confidence in the local judiciary.

“The question has arisen at the opening of the Grand Court, how far does the governor support the judiciary and, of course, I absolutely support the judiciary. I am pleased and delighted that Justice Henderson is back on bench, as from what I here he is a very capable judge. We have a chiefjustice with an international reputation and we have appointed some really good judges. We have local and regional experience in our judiciary. I think the public and the business community can have every confidence in our judiciary,” he stated on air.

He went on to say that before all this (Operation Tempura ) happened  he had advocated an independent  well qualified  judicial commission to appoint judges and issues a code of conduct for them, and he hoped it would be part of the new constitution. The governor said he thought Cayman has a good judiciar,y but with changes there would beeven greater reassurance to the public that it’s good.

In his Grand Court Opening speech, Jennings had not only called on the governor to confirm his support for the legal profession, he had added his voice to that of Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and James Bergstrom, President of the Cayman Bar Association, criticisng Operation Tempura and the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT), led by SIO Martin Bridger.

“It is hard to know where to begin with this subject,” he said. “The first point is that it has become clear over the past few weeks that the arrest of Justice Henderson should never have occurred in the first place.  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 said he did not think the jurisdiction or the court had suffered lasting damage but it would be in the interests of all if the governor were to confirm publicly that he had no further issues outstanding with the judiciary and he announced unequivocally that he continues to have every confidence in the Bench and in the administration of justice in the Cayman Islands. 

“We cannot let this matter fester forever.  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 added. 



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