CoP blocked ICO probe into Tempura report

| 16/02/2016 | 33 Comments
Cayman News Service

(L-R) The FCO’s Miami-based Law Enforcement Adviser Larry Covington, RCIPS Commissioner David Baines & Head of the Caribbean and Bermuda Section of the FCO Tony Bates (courtesy of Cayman Prepared)

(CNS): The acting information commissioner has once again ordered a redacted release of the infamous Tempura report after reviewing the objections of the governor’s office, which has refused to release the documents for four years. In his latest ruling Jan Liebaers revealed further twists and turns by the authorities, including a U-turn by the police commissioner over giving the ICO access to records needed to conduct the reconsideration of the case, which the office was doing at the instructions of the court. Liebaers was also damning in his criticism of the poor arguments submitted by the governor’s representatives in an effort to keep a tight lid on the records.

In yet another order to release the documents, which is likely to end up in the courts once again, Liebaers has rejected the governor’s desire for a blanket ban on the information getting into the public domain and pointed to significant weaknesses in the submission from her office over why the records should remain secret. He described interpreting the governor’s arguments as “extraordinarily difficult because of the way they have been presented, which can only be described as disjointed, repetitive and at times illogical and even fraught with grammatical errors”.

Liebaers added that the governor’s office “provided little in the way of a detailed legal analysis as to why the exemption” applied. He said the approach to their submissions was “illogical and haphazard”, as he once again warned public authorities that if they are called upon to argue exemptions under the FOI law, their arguments should be supported by cogent and clear evidence “systematically and logically laid out”.

He noted that the burden of proof rests on the “public authority to demonstrate how and why any exemption applies, and it is not up to the Information Commissioner to build the case for the public authority”, which the ruling reveals was the case in this hearing.

“The lack of specific reasoning in the submission and the governor’s referral to the police commissioner for further information and evidence indicated to me that the governor’s office felt it was my responsibility to locate evidence, and build the case in support of their claim of the exemption in question,” he explained.

The main issue the acting information commissioner had to consider in his second review was whether or not the records were now exempt from release because of an investigation by the RCIPS into Martin Bridger (the lead investigator for Operation Tempura) for misconduct in public office and some six other offences that relate in part to some of the issues considered in the complaint and the report.

While Liebaers concluded that some of the information may relate to this investigation, he said much of the report could still be released with redactions without causing any possible future prejudice should Bridger ever be charged with any crimes and end up in court.

In a lengthy and very detailed decision, the information commissioner revealed how he had been offered access to the case files in the ongoing and still rather mysterious probe that the RCIPS have begun into Martin Bridger after they dismissed his own complaints. But after the ICO had looked at the RCIPS investigation records for a few days, Police Commissioner David Baines changed his mind and began blocking the ICO’s access after he learned that Liebaers had also contacted Bridger as part of his review.

As a result of the about-face, which Liebaers said was “inconsistent with the course of action explicitly agreed with the Police Commissioner”, he issued a formal order for access to the records under section 45 of the FOI law. But Baines accused the information commissioner of interfering with a police investigation and instructed that no further access to the records would be provided and made it clear he would fight Liebaers’ order in court.

With communication broken down, no sign of the ICO getting to see the case files again and faced with the constantly shifting positions adopted in relation to potential exemptions from disclosure by the governor’s office, the commissioner put the ball back in the UK representative’s own court. He asked for them to justify their exemption argument regarding the probe.

But with what he described as the poorly argued and sometimes nonsensical submissions and their clear misinterpretation of the last court ruling that had thrown the decision back to the ICO for reconsideration, Liebaers eventually concluded that there was no evidence to support any blanket exemption. He ruled again that the documents should be in the public domain, albeit with a number of redactions to protect any possible future proceedings involving Bridger.

The controversial documents are now the longest withheld records subject to FOI request in the Cayman Islands. They consist of a complaint made by the legal advisor Martin Polaine and Bridger on the bungled internal police probe into corruption in the RCIPS, which resulted in a well-documented catalogue of costly lawsuits, and the report over why the complaints were dismissed.

The records became the subject of an FOI request in February 2012 but the request was refused and so began the long battle for access. From the very beginning the previous information commissioner, Jennifer Dilbert, was of the opinion the documents should be released but the governor’s office has fought tooth and nail for three years to stop the documents being public and in particular getting into the hands of the media.

While Operation Tempura is estimated to have cost the public purse well over $10 million, the lawsuits and continued fallout, as well as this four year FOI drama have now added to that tab, which continues to be picked up by the Cayman taxpayer.

ICO Decision 45 involving the Governor’s Office

Check back to CNS later this week for more on the Bridger probe.

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Category: Crime, Police

Comments (33)

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  1. Soldier Crab says:

    Facts:
    1. There was no corruption, it all stemmed from a mistake by the police PR girl releasing an email;
    2. John Evans was/is trying to make a name as a ‘responsible’ journalist, while ostensibly working for, of all people, Desmond Seales;
    3. Martin Bridger was an officer with the Metropolitan Police who, by training and inclination, looked for the worst in every situation;
    4. Mr Liebaers is a nice fellow, but has a Dutch outlook on life; he remains ACTING Information Commissioner: there may be a reason for that.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are right there is a reason why he is still acting. That reason is that he refuse to be intimidated by the dictators and Lords at the top of the civil service. If he fails to toe the line with them he will never be confirmed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes Soldier Crab, the reason why Mr. Liebaers or someone else has not been appointed Information Commissioner is because he is compliantly following the FOI Law and the concepts of Freedom of Information.

      View like yours encourages our dictators to reign year after year.

      You seem to be the type of person / soldier crab who surrenders your free will to be controlled by government, to be dictated to, to not question government’s actions, to control you right to free speech, I sincerely hope that you are in the minority.

      Government has violated the General Orders when they leave a civil service position vacant with someone “acting” for over a year. Now what do you say about this violation of Rule of Law?

      The government is also violating the General Orders because they have not appointed a Complaints Commissioner for over one year.

      Now there is talk about combining the Information Commissioner and Complaints Commissioner persons responsibilities into one person – then it would be easy to for government to dictate the decisions that must be made – in direct opposition to the “Democracy Building” provisions of the Constitution.

      But….if we wait on Caymanians to speak up in the thousands against these erosions of good governance and Rule of Law then that will never occur.

      Soldier Crab you should be ashamed of your support to the destruction of democracy with the necessary checks and balances against budding authoritarian governance.

      Thank you Mr.Liebaers for standing up to protect our democracy and for protecting even the Soldier Crab who does not realize that you are also protecting his freedom and your promotion of good governance – of which Soldier Crab will be a beneficiary.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wish Caymanians would stop crying like a bunch of rotten children, every time they don’t get their way with the U.K. You all want to remain under the UK, simply so that you can sleep better at knight knowing that none of your own is in control. So shut up and take what you all obviously want!

  3. Anonymous says:

    For those who wish to sing his praises, read Mr Evans’ post a 12.30 below. You will see that indicates he is no friend.

  4. Sucka Free Cayman says:

    The CON Spiracy and fleecing of Cayman continues Its a pity the weather could also stop many just like you pitbull from also coming to our shores.

  5. Anonymous says:

    They may keep the report private but what new news can be gained by its release?
    every bit of the report can be googled in bits and pieces

  6. Sharkey says:

    @ Mr Evans you better be careful that you don’t be labeled as treasonous.

    • John Evans says:

      LOL, it’s way too late to worry about that! Anyway I’m officially retired now and they wouldn’t dare pick on a poor defenceless OAP.

    • Anonymous says:

      As usual you are quick to try and frighten a sensible Caymanian. That is the major problem we have as Caymanian’s. Perhaps you should follow the Presidential Primary that is going on in the USA at this time and see how one man above all the other candidates is standing up against corruption and is wiling to take on everyone. I applaud anyone who has the backbone to stand up against those who are taking advantage of us as Caymanian’s. Stand up John Evans. You should start the ball rolling to get some support and lead your people against the UK Representatives here in our Islands. They need to be stopped.

  7. Pit Bull says:

    The Governor does not need to answer to a local Mandarin exercising statutory functions.

  8. Sharkey says:

    Can the citizens of the Islands petition the court of Cayman Islands, that no more taxpayers money be spent on this issue , until all reports and investigations are made public. Cause I see more investigations and reports coming until everyone forget about the issues.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately, it is outside the remit of the court to stop funding the investigation. It is up to the chief officer responsible as he or she has the budget. With regards to upcoming budgets it will be finance committee not to fund it. However, the way the budgets are presented now the chief officers, DG and others with budgetary responsibility are able to get funds approved with our present system that would never slip through under the old system because everything had to be clearly air-marked for the ministry, department, unit etc. Now the chief officers can take approved funds from one department and use for the Ministry or another department and the HOD will only know about it after the fact. That is the level of corruption and misappropriation of funds that is going on throughout government. If the public only knew they would be quick to repeal in part as it does have some good aspects to it. However, there is no accountability despite all the hog-wash you hear coming from the Head of Civil Servant.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ok, release the report, so we can beat up our gums, then sit back, fold our arms and do nothing. Move on to the next one.. Typical

  10. Sharkey says:

    Sounds like a lot of hiding and protection and corruption going on why it can’t be released .

    • Anonymous says:

      You can bet your life that report contain strong evidence of corruption on the part of all those that were involved. They succeeded in destroying a young Caymanian Deputy Commissioner who was inline to become the commissioner. That is how it works. We have had a disaster with all the incompetence of the UK commissioners that was brought in. Not one of them has had their contract cancelled. Why can the Caymanians see what is going on in this Country when it comes to these UK folks?

  11. Anonymous says:

    It appears the ICO has lost objectivity with this decision. Another official should decided these issues. In any event I cannot see why this law could require the Governor to do anything as it is does not apply to the Governor.

    • Anonymous says:

      3:24 That’s a daft comment.

      Exactly where in the FOI Law does it exempt the Governor? Answer – nowhere.

      This is off the FCO website, ‘The Governor’s Office holds UK government information which is subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Cayman Islands government information which is subject to the Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law 2007.’ Seems pretty clear to me!

      And this reinforces that, ‘The Governor’s Office is committed to openness, transparency and the public interest in compliance with both the UK’s Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law 2007.’

      The Governor needs to respect the law and stop illegally using RCIPS to block a legitimate FOI request. It seems rather ironic that, based on the contents of the ICO’s decision, the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission should risk falling foul of the very law that he has been charged with enforcing.

      • Diogenes says:

        Perhaps you should address your comments to Larry Covington rather than the governor. You have the chain of command the wrong way around.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are we slaves being ruled under an infallible leader (The Governor) or what. Are you that stupid to believe that the holder of that position is above all laws? You must be kidding. This kind of stupidity must be directly from her office or the Deputy Governor seeing that it was him who was quick to answer our MLA’s letter to the Governor regarding a possible early general elections.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ugh! When will we see the end of this thing? Or is the ICO just beating a dead horse. Live and let die. We have more pressing issues currently and on the rise to focus on…

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should we live and let die? This is what wrong in this country now.
      The public have every right to know what they are hiding.

      Whatever is in the report cannot be favorable, else they wouldn’t make such a huge effort to keep the records from being made public.

      If this comes out, I am guessing…. we will see exactly how corrupt some official who worked that case here in Cayman (locals and expats), and the UK is.

      It needs to be made public…if they worked the case fairly across the board, then they all… should have no issues with the report coming out.

  13. 345 says:

    Thank you Jan, for looking out for the best interests of all Caymanians.

  14. Chancellor of Exchequer says:

    What do the FCO representatives have to hide and why are they fighting the release of the Tempura report?

    Will it prove what we already know that there is corruption at the highest levels within the Civil Service, RCIPS and Judiciary. Will it confirm that external forces are working on island sent here by the FCO to spy on us and destabilize the country anybody remember the Eurobank trial?

    We pay their salaries and show them respect yet the Governor and CoP continue to insult the Caymanian people. Do they think Caymanians are stupid? Do they think they are untouchables and beyond the laws of the Cayman Islands. The incompetence of the British and their agents is an open secret in these islands. The charade of Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability is well and truly over.

    How much public funds has been spent in total on Tempura to date? The failure to answer these questions proves that our accusers are really no better than than the local charlatans found in the halls of power who are committed to covering up for one another.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Time once again to get the UK press involved and heavily. They will crumble and the truth will out

    • John Evans says:

      Already being worked on. The decision was copied to me yesterday (16 Feb) and has been circulated to all my UK media contacts.

      • Anonymous says:

        So it will have been ignored and deleted by now.

        • John Evans says:

          No, it was actually being read by at least two of them last night. The only problem is any news interest here will concentrate on ‘Senior Met cop faces probe in Caymans’ rather than the FOI issue. If they do run it the rubber ring photo will probably feature again.

          • Anonymous says:

            So basically the effect is only crap stirring and bringing bad PR to Cayman as part of your personal campaign?

            • John Evans says:

              10:58 I was on-island for a week last October and I’d say the Islands are doing a far better job of ‘crap stirring and bringing bad PR’ to themselves than I could ever do but I didn’t pass anything from my trip to my UK media contacts because it was a vacation.

              This on the other hand raises serious questions about the UK’s involvement – particularly the workings of the FCO and a couple of retired senior police officers. If you don’t like that – tough!

              • Anonymous says:

                John, Perhaps you and I need to start a political and administrative REVOLUTION to show the Caymanian populist what has been going. At least it will cause them serious Embarrassment if nothing else even though a lot of the Powerful/Immoral top guns are experts at twisting the truth to their advantage.

                • Anonymous says:

                  What do We want? Irregular and Random capitalisation! When Do we want It? Now! First thing we Will do come The revolution is put all the Proper nouns against The wall.

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