Inappropriate for Chief Minister to sign Letters of Assurance to Police Officers in McGrail Inquiry
Evidence given in the trial of a criminal complaint against the former Commissioner Ian McGrail once again raises the proximity of the Chief Minister to the emergence of allegations against Mr McGrail. It also raises serious questions as to why he would be involved or would allow himself to be involved when Mr Picardo is at the centre of the McGrail Inquiry and he is facing serious allegations of wrongdoing himself.
The GSD have waited till the conclusion of the Trial to comment on such matters. However, the Chief Minister commented broadly on GBC’s Direct Democracy programme last Tuesday on related evidence given in the Trial even before the Trial had finished.
During last week’s Trial it became clear that the 14 Police Officers who have filed statements of evidence against Mr McGrail in the Inquiry to be held later this year had received “letters of assurance” signed by the Chief Minister himself. The complainant in the Trial accepted in cross-examination that she would probably not have made a statement against Mr McGrail had she not received a letter of assurance.
The law certainly does provide whistleblower protection but in the case of police officers it clearly provides that the relevant person is the Commissioner of Police who could have provided any letter of assurance. Alternatively, the Chief Secretary or some other senior person could have done so. This is quite apart from the point as to whether these letters of assurance were even necessary at all given that the law already makes clear what protections whistleblowers are entitled to receive.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “What is incomprehensible is that the Chief Minister should be signing letters of assurance to 14 Police Officers which, have the effect, of persuading these to provide evidence against Mr McGrail in the Inquiry when Mr Picardo is a core participant and is accused of wrongdoing. Mr Picardo will clearly be the beneficiary of allegations made against Mr McGrail that are designed to affect his credibility. It looks totally self- serving and inappropriate. The Chief Minister should not have put himself in that position. This is just a further example of a growing catalogue of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Picardo in the context of the forthcoming Inquiry.
A few months ago the public was told that Mr Picardo had received evidence of wrongdoing against Mr McGrail when, at the time, the current Commissioner of Police said on radio he was unaware of any allegations. Most recently Mr Picardo has offered a job to Nick Pyle, the former Acting Governor, who together with him was central to the events of June 2020. Now it emerges that Mr Picardo had not only seen the evidence but had personally signed off on letters of assurance to 14 Police Officers.
This was inappropriate. If there was evidence against Mr McGrail that people wished to bring forward it should have been handled in a way that insulated it from any perception that could pollute the evidence. The Chief Minister should have distanced himself from the process and not thrown himself into it when it would look as if he was signing off on letters for his own benefit in the Inquiry.”
It also does raise the spectre of an attempt to rake up past allegations against Mr McGrail in a concerted way. Who has been doing so and how? It does not seem as if these instances were isolated given the wholesale batch of letters of assurance.
The evidence last week that the complainant at the centre of last week’s Trial was interviewed by Police not at New Mole House but at the offices of Hassans highlights a similarly inappropriate event.
It is inexplicable that no-one apparently thought that that would look odd given the underlying facts relevant to the Inquiry when there were plenty of alternative venues where such an interview could take place