(CNS): Following the reinstatement of Deputy Prison Director Natalie Aduke Joseph-Caesar after a settlement with government, independent members of the Legislative Assembly demanded answers last week over what happened in the scandal at HMP Northward, when unauthorized video cameras were allegedly found in a manager’s office. With Jennifer Ahearn acting as deputy governor, the chief officer in the home affairs ministry seconded to the Elections Office and the prison director off island, there were few answers to MLAs’ questions about what really happened at the jail leading to the wrongful dismissal of Caesar.
Answering a question from Alva Suckoo (Bodden Town), who had asked about her reinstatement and what settlement had been agreed, Ahearn said the deputy prison boss was reinstated and paid $15,000 for legal fees. She said the deal was signed in October last year and government had agreed that there were no findings of misconduct against Caesar. She said the chief officer would make no detrimental comments about her and that Caesar would not make any more legal claims relating to the incident.
The case never made it to a full court hearing and government has been particularly sensitive about trying to deny any order was made by the courts. Ahearn once again claimed that the case was never before the court, but that caused concern from Arden McLean (East End) during the supplementary questions, as he reminded the parliament that Deputy Governor Franz Manderson had previously refused to answer questions about the issue in the LA because he had said it was before the court.
One of several reasons why Caesar was reinstated was because she was fired by the chief officer and not, in accordance with the with Prison Law, the prison director. But when asked about laws being broken by the former chief officer in the home affairs ministry, Ahearn said that there was a conflict between the Public Management and Service Law, under which the deputy was hired, with the Prison Law.
Struggling to answer questions about the chain of events, it was agreed that after his return to work this week, Prison Director Neil Lavis would attend the Legislative Assembly to enable the deputy governor to accurately answer more questions about the whole affair.
Caesar was sacked over the installation of surveillance equipment in the office of Nina White, a prison manager and a former colleague of Lavis in the UK, based on allegations that she was behaving inappropriately with inmates. Caesar was first suspended in May 2015 and then sacked in November of that year. White denied the allegations, though her contract was not renewed last year and she has now left the service.
After being sacked, Caesar filed a judicial review application at the beginning of last year and a court consent order indicated that the prison deputy should be reinstated and paid all the way back to when she was fired.