31st July 2020, 19:57
The Government is to convene a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sudden retirement of the former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail.
The Chief Minister told Parliament the Government did not think the matter made it necessary to convene an inquiry, but it has done so because Mr McGrail called for one.
Fabian Picardo said the Government is satisfied the actions of the Police Authority, the Office of the Governor and the Government were “entirely proper and based on legal advice”.
But, on Tuesday the retired Police chief called for it and today the Chief Minister confirmed it will go ahead.
A public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr McGrail’s sudden retirement will be led by a senior judge from outside Gibraltar. The Chief Minister said the cost will likely ascend to the millions of pounds, but it will be worth it to ensure the truth is known.
Fabian Picardo said he is advised it would be against the public interest to say any more at this stage principally because of a criminal investigation into two deaths at sea: as much for police officers being investigated as for those who lost their lives. He said there were significant political and diplomatic connotations outside of Gibraltar.
The Chief Minister said he and the Governor could not tolerate any suggestion that in Gibraltar there is anything other than the highest observance of the law. Gossip and rumour will be quashed by the inquiry, he said, claiming that for government there will be no inconvenient truth.
For his part, the Leader of the Opposition welcomed the move to convene an inquiry. Keith Azopardi said it would be serious if the Chief Minister had withheld from Parliament on Monday that the invitation to Mr McGrail to retire had been withdrawn.
More generally, he said it was a serious matter & unprecedented for the Governor and the Chief Minister to openly say they sought the former Commissioner of Police's retirement.
Dr Azopardi said the Opposition would be happy to assist in scoping the questions the public inquiry will address not because they are the only independent ones but because the Chief Minister, he said, is not independent in this matter.
In response, the Chief Minister said the Leader of the Opposition appeared to be playing a game with a very serious issue for his own political gain.He said whether or not it was serious that there may or may not have been an extant invitation for Mr McGrail to retire will be a matter for the inquiry.
He said it could be established within a matter of weeks, but the timing of the inquiry itself will be up to the Judge leading it. He said its scope will be as broad and as wide as possible.
For her part, the Together Gibraltar Leader said it was unfortunate this matter had become a political one. Marlene Hassan Nahon said any time the independence of the police or the separation of powers are questioned, it does real damage. She said the integrity of democracy and the perception of this needs to be protected.
Mr Picardo said he didn’t think there is public concern among ordinary Gibraltarians about the integrity of our democracy, and was confident no constitutional office has been undermined.
And, for his part, Ian McGrail has responded to Friday's announcement in Parliament. He says he is happy that "wise counsel has prevailed" and that the Gibraltar Government has responded to his call for an independent judicial enquiry.