The GSD notes the Government’s statement on the McGrail Inquiry. This should run its course and be allowed to do its work. All parties have rights.
All that is clear but the Government cannot just deploy the fact that they convened the inquiry as some form of conclusive answer to the issues raised by the Inquiry as if that supported its case that it is blameless and, in some way, immunized the Chief Minister’s handling of the circumstances leading to the departure of the ex-Police Commissioner and related issues.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “The fact is that the Government were dragged kicking and screaming to actually convene the inquiry in 2022. They announced they would appoint an inquiry on 31 July 2020. They said a chairman would be appointed within “some weeks.” If that had happened the inquiry would have run its course and have concluded a long time ago. The public are left to wonder whether it was politically inconvenient to convene an Inquiry sooner so that its outcome would not be known till after the next general election. That is a legitimate political comment given the failure of the Government to fulfil its promise to appoint a Chairman for the Inquiry “quickly” and within “some weeks.” The GSD repeatedly reminded the Government of this after July 2020 and urged the Government to do what it had said it would.
In fact, the Government did not appoint the Inquiry till February 2022 – almost 2 years after Mr McGrail had retired. In the meantime, it is within the public domain (because the Chief Minister has said so) that he tried to dissuade the former Police Commissioner from persisting with his demand that an inquiry be held.
It is obvious that there is plenty for the Chairman of the Inquiry to consider and the allegations being made are extremely serious indeed. It is correct to say that the allegations made are so far unproven and the Chairman should be allowed to do its work. Equally however the Chief Minister against whom very serious allegations have been made cannot expect (given the nature of these) for there not to be any fair comment or to restrain comment on these by defamation “threats” which the Chairman of the Inquiry has already described as inappropriate. Nor is it appropriate for Mr Picardo to simply say that he is defending the jurisdiction from reputational damage of allegations he says are denied when in fact he is protecting his own political reputation. The reputation of Gibraltar and his reputation are not the same things. That would be to wrongly conflate issues in the hope of public sympathy for his stance.
It is important for democracy that the Inquiry be independent and conducted in full public view so that allegations on all sides can be tested and determined. The outcome of what transpired is for the Chairman of the Inquiry. But it would be wrong for the Chief Minister or Government to attempt to silence criticism or put a lid on issues. Given the severity of the issues at stake the reverse is true. They should be completely ventilated and tested one way or the other. That is what would happen in any other democracy.”