Chief Minister’s Statement In Respect Of Retired Commissioner McGrail
A statement from the Chief Minister follows below:
Mr Speaker, the House will recall that questions 450 to 469 which were asked and answered on Monday related to the retirement of former Commissioner of Police, Mr Ian McGrail.
Mr Speaker, the following day, on Tuesday the lawyers representing Mr McGrail, issued a statement on his behalf in relation to the exchanges in this House.
In that statement Mr McGrail's lawyers said that he ‘now firmly believes that the circumstances leading up to’ his early retirement ‘requires a definitive, well informed and detailed assessment.’
Mr McGrail’s lawyers said that without an independent judicial assessment there is a real risk to the reputation of Gibraltar as an advanced Parliamentary democracy under the rule of law.
He called for a judicial inquiry by a High Court judge from the United Kingdom to be convened without delay.
He added that the thought that they thought there could be no reasonable or rational objection to this.
He said that the standing and reputation of Gibraltar required it.
The Government does not consider that it is necessary to convene an inquiry into why Mr McGrail retired early.
We do not agree at all with the statements made by those representing Mr McGrail, on his behalf, about the effect that his retirement and the circumstances of it might have for Gibraltar.
In fact, we consider that the opposite is the case.
The Government is satisfied that all aspects of that matter, insofar as they relate to the actions and decisions of the Gibraltar Police Authority, the Office of the Governor and my own involvement have been entirely proper and based on the legal advice received.
Indeed, the Government would not have said anything further than was set out in our statement of the 9th of June 2020 in which we wished Mr McGrail well in his retirement.
The only further statements made by the Government have arisen from the questions put by the media and the questions in this House by the Leader of the Opposition.
That is to say, the Government had no wish to expose that Mr McGrail's career ended as it did.
Whilst acknowledging that there may be much public curiosity about the surrounding circumstances, even rumour and tittle tattle, we felt there was nothing to be gained by further exposing the facts and matters that arose and led to the retirement of Mr McGrail.
But neither would the Government not answer questions put in this House on the subject other than truthfully in order to avoid the reality of how Mr McGrail come to retire early.
What the Government is not able to do, at this stage, is say any more of what is related to the detail of the information available to the Government behind the views and decisions of the Gibraltar Police Authority, His Excellency the then Governor and, indeed, my views in respect of the exercise of my powers under the Police Act.
And let us be clear, Mr Speaker, it is not that we do not want to give every detail, it is that we are advised that to do so is contrary to the public interest at this stage.
The reason we are unable to provide details at this stage relates principally to sensitive criminal investigations which relate to the recent incident at sea resulting in the death of two Spanish nationals.
It is indisputably NOT in the public interest to prejudice that investigation as much in the interests of the police officers who are being investigated as for the families of those who died at sea as a result of the incident.
This issue, obviously, also has significant political and diplomatic connotations outside of Gibraltar.
No one can fail to see that or doubt that.
Additionally, it is one thing for foreign newspapers and commentators to ignore rules about potential prejudice to live criminal investigations.
It would be quite another for us to do so directly or indirectly by making public comments which tangentially might affect criminal investigations.
It would be particularly unfair for the Government to speak out in its own defence to quash some of the totally unfounded rumours that may abound in this matter if in doing so, and in that way fully exonerating ourselves of the more outlandish allegations that may have been conjected, we might create even the slightest prejudice to those of our police officers under investigation or indeed prejudice the rights of the families of the deceased whose interest is to have an untarnished investigation and outcome thereof.
Mr Speaker, in order, however, to ensure that there can be no suggestion, however spurious and ill- founded, that there is anything untoward about the exercise of powers under the Police Act that culminated in the retirement of Mr McGrail, the Government is minded to convene an inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act.
This is an inquiry that is not necessary but that we will convene to ensure that it is not suggested that anything is being covered up.
It is an inquiry that has been made relevant only by the call for it from Mr McGrail.
In convening such an inquiry, the Government will seek to ensure that all aspects of all matters that might be relevant to the formation of views of each of the GPA, the Office of the Governor, Mr McGrail and the Government are provided for.
We will not seek to exclude anything Mr McGrail might wish the inquiry to review.
But we will also not agree to exclude anything that Mr McGrail might not wish the inquiry to review.
We will not seek to cover anything up.
Neither will we tolerate any attempt by anyone else to cover anything up.
We consider that our actions have been proper and that they will stand the test of scrutiny.
I hope all others who may come before the inquiry feel as confident.
We shall therefore now commence the process of formulating the relevant questions and parameters for the inquiry.
Mr Speaker, there will be considerable public cost as a result of covening this inquiry.
The cost will likely ascend to the millions.
This is money that could definitely be better spent in so many ways.
But it is a price we are prepared to pay so that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth comes out.
But the government and the office of the Governor will not tolerate any suggestion, from any quarter, that there has been any impropriety in the manner that we have acted in this matter.
The cost will not stand in the way of this attempt to tarnish Gibraltar’s reputation.
We will not tolerate any suggestion that in Gibraltar there is anything other than the highest regard for adherence to Constitutional principles and observance of statutory rules and the rule of law in every single respect.
We are unable to say more at this stage.
But our inability to say more is precisely because of our commitment to the rule of law.
We do not want to prejudice the rights of police officers who are themselves the subject of a criminal investigation.
We do not want to prejudice the rights of the deceased and their families in that case who await the fair and proper outcome of that criminal investigation.
But an inquiry led by a senior judge from outside the jurisdiction, a high court judge or higher, will properly be able to ensure the protection of those competing interests.
A judge in an inquiry will be able to decide what can be said now, what can be said in camera and what can be stayed pending the outcome of other proceedings.
But most importantly, Mr Speaker, an inquiry will reach conclusions that will quash the gossip, the rumour and the tittle tattle.
The conclusions of the inquiry will ensure that all the truth will out.
For the Government, there is no inconvenient truth here.
And so, in the circumstances, and despite it not being necessary other than as a result of the call made by Mr McGrail himself which purports to establish that Gibraltar’s reputation would be tarnished if it is not agreed to, the Government shall convene an inquiry into his retirement.
And then the whole community will know all of what lay behind it.
MCGRAIL REACTION: Ex-Commissioner of the RGP – Mr. Ian McGrail on the Chief Minister’s statement in Parliament regarding judicial enquiry:
“Mr. McGrail is happy that wise counsel has prevailed and that the Gibraltar Government has accepted his demand for an independent judicial enquiry to be convened.”