SPIT lawyer disbarred

| 11/12/2009

Cayman Island News(CNS): The Bar Standards Board of the United Kingdom has disbarred the former legal advisor of the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT) as a result of his role in the unlawful arrest of the Cayman Islands Grand Court judge, Justice Alex Henderson, during Operation Tempura. The penalty was handed down to Martin Polaine by the Board’s Disciplinary Tribunal in the UK on Wednesday, 9 December, following a hearing earlier this year in which Polaine had admitted all seven charges against him of professional misconduct. The hearing was convened as a result of a complaint filed by Justice Henderson.

According to the details revealed on the Bar Standards website, all of the charges related directly to the advice that Polaine gave to the lead investigating officer of SPIT, Martin Bridger, regarding the unlawful arrest of Henderson and the warrants obtained to search his home and office.

“Martin Polaine … advised the Cayman Islands authorities that there was reasonable suspicion that The Honourable H, a Judge of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, had committed the offence of misconduct in public office, in circumstances where there was no such reasonable suspicion and Mr Polaine, as a person not qualified to practise as a lawyer in, or with expert knowledge of the law of, the Cayman Islands, knew or ought to have known he was not competent to give such advice…,” the disciplinary findings stated.

The board noted that Polaine failed to advise that applications for the warrants should have been made to a judge and not a justice of the peace (JP) and that he also failed to advise on the need for disclosure.  This meant that important facts were not placed before Carson Ebanks, the JP who signed the warrants, such as the chief justice’s earlier refusal to issue search warrants in connection with this element of Operation Tempura.

The UK’s legal tribunal also found that Polaine was not qualified to practise as a lawyer, or offer expert knowledge of the law in the Cayman Islands, and knew or ought to have known he was not competent to give such advice. He also allowed himself to be introduced as a lawyer to Carson Ebanks, the JP, without telling that him that he was not qualified to practisein Cayman, and the board said this created a “misleading impression” about the search warrants which Ebanks ultimately signed.

The counsel revealed that Polaine was also offering his legal services in Cayman when neither he nor Amicus Legal Consultants Limited, his employer, was covered by insurance against claims for professional negligence.

The Bar counsel said that Polaine had brought the legal profession into disrepute when he expressed a personal opinion to the press that the advice he had given to Bridger in relation to the arrest of Henderson was correct in the wake of Sir Peter Cresswell’s October judgment, which found that Henderson had been unlawfully arrested, inferring that ruling was wrong. Cresswell presided over the judicial review that Justice Henderson applied for within a short time of the controversial arrest. After the five day hearing, Cresswell ruled in Henderson’s favour and accused the Operation Tempura team of “… the gravest abuse of process” when he found the arrest unlawful.

Prior to his own disciplinary hearing, Polaine had formally apologised to Justice Henderson in writing. “I deeply regret my failures in the above regard and, again, wish to express my unreserved apologies,” he wrote.

Following Henderson’s official complaint, the Bar Standards Board convened the disciplinary hearing, during which Polaine admitted that, while he had given advice in good faith, he had to concede, in the light of that ruling, that his judgement had been shown to be poor. “I recognise that my erroneous advice has had a profound effect on Justice Henderson, his family, and the Cayman Islands as a whole.  I apologise unreservedly.  I also accept that my poor standard of professional conduct in this regard has had a detrimental effect on the reputation of the Bar of England & Wales in the Cayman Islands.  Again, I offer my sincere apologies,” Polaine told the board.

Despite his admission and apologies, however, Polaine has now been stripped of his right to practice his profession as a lawyer, but he is the only person connected to the discredited Operation Tempura investigations to face any kind of formal accountability.

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  1. da-wa-u-get says:

    Does this mean that our government is now free to sue to recover the cost of that debacle?

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that we could not sue because Tempura involved essentially actions taken by government as a whole.  Who would generate the action?  The Attorney General? Not likely, his having been so close to all the goings on.

      It would likely have to be some sort of third party civil action — again, I am not a lawyer — but maybe som party suing on behalf of the people of the Cayman Islands.

      And who would we sue?  The Cayman Islands Government would definitely be party to the action if not the main party. 

      After all, we had the Chief Secretary chairing the committee and the AG doing God knows what (under the constitution he is supposed to be the chief legal advisor to the Governor).

      It just couldn’t be done. 

      Nothing to do but grin and bear it.

      • Rumpointpole says:

        As an attorney, I will happily answer all these questions and more.  Just forward a retainer of $100,000 to my account and I will get going. . . . .

  2. Heavy Cake says:

    Da wha ya get!

  3. Anonymous says:

    While I believe that the right decision was made in disbarring Mr. Polaine for his actions, I take no joy in the fact that he has now lost the ability to earn a living practicing law after having spent many years studying to earn his degree. It is unfortunate that the lure of easy money from Mr. Bridger and his goons in Cayman has led to the downfall of someone who was otherwise probably a very good lawyer. I will however, feel much joy when Mr. Bridger meets his downfall.

  4. Operation Tropic Thunder says:

    It must be fairly obvious to everyone now the Tempura team perceived Cayman as some backwater.  In other words, they had a pompous, belligerant, and self-satisified attitude as they conducted their "investigation".  It follows then that they decided to hire whatever buddies of theirs were in need of a Caribbean vacation.  It comes as no surprise their "legal counsel" turns out to have been totally incompetent and has since been disbarred because the whole sorry lot acted in an unprofessional manner.  And, they brought disrepute to not only Cayman but Scotland Yard and in turn the FCO as well.  Next time they want to send some Miami Vice team to one of the territories best to make sure first they are capable of knowing their ass from their elbow.

  5. Twyla Vargas says:

    I AM PLEASED TO SEE, how the UK  bar handled Mr. Martin Polaine’s behaviour  in the SPIT case, and maybe we will live to see more justice with Mr Bridger.  But my feelings is that there are lessons for us to learn right here in our little two by four. 

    You know how I keep up with CNS, and we all read about the cases  that those two Caymanian female Lawyers have against Maples; if those girls win their cases do you think that the partners at Maples will be disbarred too?  Our Bar Association andChief Juge are aware of these cases but I have not heard anything about any investigation.  Not even a question asked.  I wonder Why?

    • Wanda Y. says:

      You wonder why? It is because none of the cases have ever been proved.  Stop fanning the flames!

  6. Spit in the sky.... says:

    Guess Mr. Polaine didn’t realize that it was not only the judge his advice had a profound effect on. Ah, boy! We’re all sitting here reading these comments on CNS and drinking some nice cold "Payback-is-a-B*tch" beers.

  7. I want to know who payroll he was on says:

    I guess he is not worried probably still on  payroll….

  8. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to the Bar Standards Board of the United Kingdom. Justice is served.

    Cayman needs to take note here.

    People must be held accountable. There is too much that goes wrong in Cayman and no one is ever held accountable.


  9. Hanson says:



    You assume, you judge, you speculate without any evidence…

    That is what you get!

  10. Anonymous says:

    This action was taken by the UK Bar Council. It has absolutely no bearing on the desires of the FCO and captain underpants will just brush this aside and continue on his mission.

    Its a Pity that the UK do not also have a Police Council that could deal with Bridger and the rest of the Pentura team or a Governors Council that could deal with Jack.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s good to see that at least the Bar counsel will stand up for what’s right.  Let’s hope Bridger is formally dealt with next.  If Polaine knew that the JP was being misled then Bridger msut certainly have known too, and all while we are paying him $27,000 a month. I wonder how he sleeps at night..

    • Anonymous says:

      If he was paid to do something he could not lawfully do, he was paid for something unlawful, so his pay was the proceeds of crime, so we should claim it back…

      Too funny really – XXXXX


  12. Richard Wadd says:

     It seems as if the only persons who can get Justice (and in a timely manner) are members of the Judiciary.

    Justice is about how deep your pockets are, or who you know.

    • Anonymous says:

      The result from this hearing by the UK Bar Standards Board has nothing to do with "deep pockets".  There was no monetary cost in filing this charge with the UK Bar Standards Board. 

      And the Board would not have taken this serious an action if it did not feel there were serious violations.

      If one has a just cause, there is always room for redress, regardless of whom one is. If one does not get re-dress at one level, then there are usually second and third tiers of justice.

      It is true, however, that the degree of representation of individuals in court does make a difference, and many times that depends on the availability of resources to the litigant.

      However, in this case, at this level, there was no need for "deep pockets".

      As for the judiciary, they dispense justice normally and are very rarely the recepients of justice, which is the way it should be.  So I don’t think we can generalise from this as to the judiciary’s ability to get justice.

      However, it is true that they know the law better than anyone else, by virtue of their role, and they know how to access justice.

      That is one of the many reasons that made this action by the ill-fated Operration Tempura so ill-advised. 



    • Anonymous says:

      yep thats right! don’t think it is an other way ANYWHERE in the world – not just Cayman

  13. John Evans says:

    The irony is that if he had kept quiet after the Cresswell ruling this would probably never have happened.

    Instead, Mr Polaine emailed a stream of comments to a local newspaper. These defended his position and attacked the Cresswell ruling. They were then re-written as editorials.

    On 11 February this year I included that fact in a lengthy complaint to the Chief Justice about numerous issues arising from Operation Tempura and am well satisfied with this outcome.

    In particular the Bar Standards Board’s ruling raises some very serious questions about the decision made by those running SPIT/Operation Tempura to employ Mr Polaine. It quite clearly shows that few, if any, background checks were made and suggests, not for the first time, that contracts may have been granted on an ‘old boy network’ basis.  

    I wonder how many others will fall in the coming months. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    Clearly the FCO will ignore all of this. Perhaps the gentleman will be made Governor in due course or perhaps an Attorney General – appointments for jobs well done.

  15. Whoops... says:

    Spit happens…

  16. TRUTH says:

    One down and a few more to go.  Now I hope they arrest the UK Officers who arrested our judge and caused this embarressment.  I hope this son of a b***h never gets to run to another country and try to practise law.  As a Caymanian I feel a little satisfaction reading this.  Go after Bridger and his goons next!!!

  17. Boston Tea Party says:

    It is rather sad that Polaine has had to be disciplined by a foreign body, and rather shaming on the system here that there is no possibility of disciplining those primarily responsible because of the lack of accountability inherent in our systems.  Bravo to the English Bar Council.

    • Anonymous says:

      Given that he never professed to practise Cayman law what basis would anyone have to discipline him here?

      • Anonymous says:

        On those very grounds, you moron.

        A very disturbing precedent seems to be happening on CNS as on YouTube and other public forums where anonimity is available. Goons of one side seem to be commenting on the indefensible to give the impression that there are two sides to ignorance. Either that or you are the fools who are guilty, Stop it and get a life!