Judge directed to release memo over letters scandal

| 20/11/2011

Gavel%20and%20documents.jpg(CNS): The information commissioner has ordered the content of a memo sent by the chief justice to the police regarding letters to the press he believed were scandalizing the judiciary to be released. Although the judicial administration had at first denied having the record, after it was discovered the public authority denied the request because it said that the investigation was not complete.  Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert said she remained unconvinced that the investigation was on-going as no evidence was produced to support the claim and ordered Judicial Administration to release the record, which relates to letters sent to Cayman Net News that a former grand court judge was accused of writing.

The latest decision by the information commissioner centres on a missing document following a request made earlier this year by an applicant who was given access to a number of personal records related to a public tribunal but who was not satisfied that every document that had been requested had been disclosed. With the assistance of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) the missing document was eventually found, but when it was, the Judicial Administration said the FOI law did not apply to it as it related to judicial functions.

Having been given access to the record, the ICO concluded that the document was administrative in nature and not related to judicial functions so it was subject to the freedom of information law. As a result, the courts then denied access on the basis that it was part of a continuing investigation.

Dilbert was also not persuaded by the public authority’s arguments during the hearing that the investigation was continuing, especially given the time that had elapsed in connection with the tribunal in question that the memo related to, and that no evidence was submitted to support the claim.

“The FOI Law places theburden of proof on the public authority to prove that it has acted in accordance with its obligations under the Law,” Dilbert said.  “While there are certainly situations where records relating to law enforcement need to be protected, the law requires that there is a real and substantial ground for the expectation that harm could occur for this exemption to apply. Judicial Administration has not presented me with these grounds.” 

In her decision she noted that the document in question was not a record relating to law enforcement and much of what it contained is information that is already in the public domain, since the tribunal was held in public. With the exception of the last paragraph of the record, which contained personal information of a third party unrelated to the issues, Dilbert gave the judicial department 45 calendar days to appeal the decision.

According to Dilbert’s decision, the document in question is a memo written by the chief justice referring an issue to the police for investigation. Although the tribunal is not mentioned by name in Dilbert’s ruling, the memo relates to letters that were written to Cayman Net News that the courts believed were an attempt to scandalize and effectively undermine public confidence in the local judiciary.

The issue became a key element in the tribunal of the former Grand Court judge, Priya Levers, who was removed from the bench for misbehaviour.  Although the tribunal had concluded that she was not the author of the letters, a point she had always vehemently maintained, it was revealed during the judge’s case that the islands' top judge had referred the matter of the letters to the police in an effort to discover the author, who wrote the letters under a number of pseudonyms.

See the Information commissioner’s full decision below.

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Category: FOI

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Comments (9)

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  1. Annoymous says:

    FOI makes my day every day.  I get to dig up dirt on all the bull that keeps coming up.  Love FOI and LOVE the FOI COmmissioner.

    I agree Jennifer Dilbert for Premier!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank heavens for FOI and thank heavens for Mrs. Dilbert!  She is one iron lady!

  3. John Evans says:

    Be interesting to see what comes out of this.

    On 4 September 2007, during the debrief at George Town police station following the now-infamous search, a senior police officer confirmed to me that the RCIPS had been asked to investigate the letters published by Net News attacking the judiciary.

    According to him, the RCIPS had simply concluded that the comments were no worse than might appear in the tabloid press in the UK and no investigation was ever conducted.


  4. Anonymous says:

    She has fortitude that most men dont have!

    Give um hell Mrs. Dilbert.


    Humbled man. SOL

  5. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    It's easy to tell when a person is serious about properly doing their job and following the law.  Thank you Mrs. Dilbert and all of your team at the Information Commissioner’s Office!


  6. Anonymous says:

    You mean even the Chief Justice is accountable in Cayman to the FOI Law. Astonishing, since the Judiciary sems to be allowed to go its own way in most other things.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dilbert for Premier!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    How can anyone be expected to have faith in the judicial system or those responsible for administering justice when, on the face of it, they have not shown full candour and honesty in their dealings here???

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you FOI !!!!!!!!!!!