More secrets emerge from Tempura court challenge

| 11/02/2015 | 14 Comments
Cayman News Service

Martin Bridger, senior investigating officer for Operation Tempura

(CNS): As the governor’s office went into legal battle again on Tuesday to keep the controversial report on a complaint regarding the internal police probe, Operation Tempura, under wraps, it emerged that a criminal investigation connected to the issue is ongoing, more than six years after Martin Bridger, the senior investigating officer, was booted off the island.

Although the courts heard nothing about the details of the investigation, it is possible that the subject of the enquiry is Bridger.

The current hearing is the second judicial review sought by the governor’s office to challenge a decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to release a report, commissioned by the governor, into a complaint about the Tempura probe. This was originally filed by Martin Polaine, the legal advisor for Tempura, but later picked up by Bridger after Polaine dropped the complaint.

Bridger also pursued a number of other complaints about the probe, not least that critical information about the alleged break-in at Cayman Net News, which triggered the discredited probe, had been withheld from him by senior UK-appointed officials, including the governor at the time, the attorney general and the overseas territories security advisor.

Bridger filed a criminal complaint with the RCIPS, which Police Commissioner David Baines claimed was unsupported and unproved but he said that counter allegations had been made about Bridger.

The former Tempura boss has been accused of breaking court orders by speaking to the press about the case and has been pursued by the authorities in the civil courts over information he is believed to have in his possession from the investigation. Bridger is also fighting for access to information to help him in a civil claim by the former police commissioner, Stuart Kernohan, who recently received an undisclosed but hefty pay-off in relation to his dismissal in the middle of the Tempura probe.

As arguments began yesterday in the latest chapter of the Tempura saga, as well as raising the issue of an ongoing criminal case relating to the still secret report, Ian Paget-Brown, QC, who is representing the governor’s office in its bid to keep the document from being released, introduced other new arguments.

Although the court was supposed to be dealing with just one remaining point , the QC introduced a claim Tuesday that because former Net News reporter John Evans, who had made the original freedom of information request to access the report, had withdrawn his request, the ICO had no jurisdiction to order the report released. The courts, therefore, have no jurisdiction either, Paget-Brown argued.

The arguments before Justice Tim Owen, the visiting judge in the case, were supposed to be limited to just one area left open after the first judicial review last year before Sir Alan Moses, but in its determination of to keep the report secret the governor’s office has raised new arguments.

The governor’s office is locked in a costly battle with the information commissioner, adding to the growing Tempura tab, which is being picked up by the Cayman taxpayer. After the legal ruling by Sir Alan, the case was reconsidered by the information commissioner and Sir Alan ruled again to release the report. However, Governor Helen Kilpatrick appears to be as determined as her predecessor, Duncan Taylor, to ensure the report never sees the light of day.

With each twist and turn of Tempura, it has emerged that almost everyone involved in the investigation has been economical with the truth or appears to have something to hide. Despite public expectations that the document will reveal significant corruption, which has been denied by the governor’s office, the attempts to keep a lid on the report could have much more to do with the cover-up of incompetence and mismanagement of the whole affair by senior officials rather than criminal or corrupt acts.

The case was adjourned yesterday at lunchtime to give the judge time to read and consider various documents as well as the issue of jurisdiction, but the arguments of the main issue at hand were scheduled to begin Wednesday. The case is being heard in open court at Grand Court Five in Kirk House, George Town starting at 10am.

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Category: Courts, Crime, Police

Comments (14)

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  1. Rick says:

    “Despite public expectations that the document will reveal significant corruption, which has been denied by the governor’s office, the attempts to keep a lid on the report could have much more to do with the cover-up of incompetence and mismanagement of the whole affair by senior officials rather than criminal or corrupt acts.”

    Governments have built-in excuses within legislation as to why they can breach the people’s rights. The truth is they are just excuses, and very rarely reveal the true reasons. In any case, only low level government employees follow the rules. The people at the top see these justifications for the breach of rights as no more than tools to defend their corrupt actions as they manipulate the rules and circumstances to pursue narrow and corrupt agendas to the detriment of the people. This statement is exactly correct, and will always be, in a jurisdiction that does not have the most robust framework for ensuring that these reasons to breach rights are in fact being followed.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why dont they just alter the report and then publish? Its works in education. Just send the report back to the consultant until you get the answers you want.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s apparently exactly what has already happened.

      The Financial Times blew the whistle on this whole sorry fiasco on 12 January 2011. There was then a delay of about two months during which it is alleged (and for legal reasons it must be stated that this is unverified) that the author of the report was re-called to Grand Cayman where his findings were ‘fine tuned’ to satisfy the Governor and the FCO. The source of these allegations believes (and this has been posted elsewhere) that the original findings were considerably dumbed down. In short this FOI action has cost around CI$1million so far but even if the documents are released we probably will never find out what really happened.

      I suspect one of the reasons the FCO are so determined to keep this all secret is the possibility that their response to the complaint could be dis-credited if it was made public.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is entirely inappropriate for this report to be published.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The book I could write gets better each day. What keeps me from doing it is self preservation.

  5. Observer says:

    I continue to find it difficult to understand how an investigator of Bridger’s experience would not have understood that the Governor would have known the operational arrangements undertaken by the then commissioner of police in relation to the so-called break-in of the late publisher’s office. If Bridger had any inkling of the supervision and reporting requirements relative to the governor’s office and the CoP’s, he would have understood that the then governor had to have known. His claim then that had he known that the Governor knew about the break-in he would have packed up and left and the investigation would have been over is then entirely either a false claim or a testimony to his incompetence. In either case, this whole debacle continues to reflect very poorly on Bridger.

    • John Evans says:

      I can state categorically that this particular claim is nonsense. At the time of my search on 3 September 2007 the Director OT at the FCO, Leigh Turner, was in contact with the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, who had already given ACC John Yates (Bridger’s boss) the job of setting up a team to run what became Operation Tempura.

      By October/November 2007 the original complaints against Seales and Ennis had been found to be complete nonsense but Tempura had already shifted up a gear and started to expand outside the original remit.

      According to a 2011 FOI release by the Met, in February 2008 they were so committed to the expanded Tempura investigation that John Yates put in place the measures that effectively handed the investigation over to private contractors during May/June 2008. At that point Tempura was little more than a runaway train with the people of the Cayman Islands picking up the tab for eventual wreck.

      The bottom line is that in October/November 2007 there was ample evidence that the original object of the investigation was dead in the water but by then the potential of turning it into ‘a nice little earner’ was just too tempting. Mr Bridger is correct in saying that Tempura could have been closed down after a few months but the reasons for that not happening have nothing to do with anyone outside the investigation.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good God Man what is in the REPORT???? let it out . This is costing US a lot of money, whether it is the Governor’s office, Complaints commissioners office the tax payers will get caught with the bill Plus Court Cost yet another Bill. Jeeeeee. Get it over with GOVENOR

    • Anonymous says:

      Amongst other things I suspect (based on what’s been released so far) that the report shows that the Governor’s office and the FCO conspired to conduct an investigation into the original complaint in a manner that violated a number of peoples’ rights under ECHR Article 6 – Right to a Fair Trial.

      In addition the FCO apparently allowed themselves to be pressurised into accepting and processing this complaint although they clearly had serious about it from day one and releasing the material might raise a few questions about the credibility of a senior civil servant who is now the Governor of a very sensitive little group of islands in the South Atlantic.

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