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Prison forced to give officer workplace report

| 16/05/2017 | 6 Comments

(CNS): In what was described as an unusual case by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the prison service has been ordered to release a redacted version of an internal report to a prison officer working at the women’s jail as it concerned a complaint against her made by an inmate. Commissioner Jan Liebaers raised concerns about how Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service (HMCIPS) handled the case after it re-opened a closed investigation when the officer made her FOI request for the report. He also noted a lack of cooperation and a refusal to conduct an internal review by the prison management.

The case surrounds what happened when an officer at the women’s jail was refused her own personnel records relating to an internal workplace inquiry and subsequent report after an inmate made a complaint about her. The details of the inmate’s complaint have not been revealed.

When the officer was first told the case was closed, she was given some details about the complaint but she was not given the report. After she made an FOI request in November last year, that was also denied by the prison based on a long list of possible exemptions covering six different sections of the law. At that time she also learned that the probe had been re-opened.

Prison service management claimed the prison officer could not have the report or findings about the complaint made against her until a future date because disclosure could affect the conduct of a law enforcement investigation or prosecution, may endanger a person’s life or safety, could identify a confidential source of information, jeopardize the security of a prison, prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, and endanger the physical or mental health, or the safety of an individual.

But the officer appealed the refusal and during the hearing Acting Information Commissioner Liebaers found that none of the list of claimed exemptions applied. He said information that would identify witnesses, such as prisoner ID numbers, categories, initials and specific information, should be redacted. In his decision dated 11 May, he ordered the jail to disclose the rest of the report.

“This case was unusual, in that the applicant had been informed about key aspects of the report, yet disclosure was denied when she requested access to the full report,” Liebaers stated.

The decision also reveals that until the applicant made an FOI request and the process began, she had no idea that the case had been re-opened and she could be facing criminal proceedings. She was never placed on required leave and although she had been told twice before her FOI request that the matter was closed and no further action was being taken, during the process she found it had been unexpectedly re-opened and she has been left to wonder what the outcome would be.

In his decision Liebaers raised concerns about the process and explained how the prison had at first refused to conduct an internal review after its initial refusal, suggesting it was premature as the investigation was ongoing. But the ICO said the original refusal to disclose and a deferral of the requested records had been communicated in the information manager’s initial decision, and the immediate application for an internal review was made within the thirty calendar days allowed in the law.

“This makes the application for an internal review valid, and the ministry had no grounds to call the application ‘premature’, “ Liebaers said in his decision, noting that there is no restriction on the right to seek an internal review for deferrals, even if they are relatively short-term. He said that because public authorities may miscalculate timings, it is in the interest of an applicant to move the FOI process along swiftly.

During the process of this hearing Liebaers also encountered some obstruction and said that public authorities still don’t always cooperate in a full and timely manner with the ICO in the course of an appeal, causing unnecessary delays.

“An example of this was displayed by HMCIPS when it took a whole month to explain to the ICO their reasons for withholding the records, and even longer to provide the ICO with a copy of the requested report,” he added.

He also brought attention to how the prison handled the disclosure. The commissioner said it was “highly unusual” for the authority to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an employee who is twice informed that the investigation is over and she has been exonerated, but when she asks for a copy of the findings, “she is told the matter is not closed after all”.

As he wrote up the findings in this appeal, he said he understood that the officer is still said to be under investigation, with no date for closure being offered. He also said that “it was not acceptable” that an investigation said to be closed was re-opened a matter of days after an FOI request was made.

During the proceedings Liebaers rejected claims by the prison that the report could not be disclosed because the case was still open, as he said there was no evidence that the investigation was still ongoing it was simply a missing management report that appears to be keeping the requested documentation from being finalised.

In her submissions to the hearing, the officer claims she has become a victim as she had already reported and requested an investigation into what she says are false allegations several months before the prison began conducting an inquiry and accuses the prison of attempting to tarnish her reputation to make prison management look good.

See the full decision in the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (6)

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  1. Figures says:

    Huh.

    Just like what they are doing to that MU Officer who has been on paid suspension for 4 years now. Hush hush. Can’t admit they fouled up.

    Cowards the bunch of them. Cowards.

    Put them all in a wet paperbag and they still could’nt find a way out.




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  2. Rodney Barnett IV says:

    This is a prime example of what happens when government is allowed to work in secret. The open records law needs to be revised to provide for truly open government, especially when the records pertain to government operations, management, purchasing, and decisions involving the receipt of or disbursement of public money.

    Caymanians are in a good position with elections coming up soon to elect intelligent, honest people working to service the public and the country, rather than their own self interests.




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  3. Anonymous says:

    WOW! Talk about workplace bullying, eh!!
    This needs to be kept out in the public eye to make sure this is handled properly. Already you can tell that they want to keep this report away from the staff member which is why they “reopended” it. Wrong wrong wrong.
    Workplace bullying of this type should not be allowed to happen.
    This is a big deal!!! Pay Attention!
    Whoever is at the top needs to step up! And if not, then that person needs to be removed because they are part of the bullying problem as well.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks to Franz Manderson and Eric Bush for leaving the Prison Service in such a mess. Well, at least they werent responsible for the Immigration Depar… what? They were responsible for Immigration? Oh ok. Well, at least they werent responsible for all that mismanagement and overtime being paid out at the Fire Service… huh? Say what? They were responsible for Fire Service too?? Yeah, thats true, they were responsible for the poor CCTV camera system we bought too… Well, at least the DG5K is coming along as planned!!

    Great job guys!!!




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