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Govt convenes McGrail inquiry

Archive image of former Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail.

The Gibraltar Government on Friday convened the public inquiry into the controversial early retirement of former Commission of Police, Ian McGrail.

The inquiry will be chaired by Sir Peter Openshaw, a retired High Court Judge of the Queen’s Bench Division in England and Wales.

Given the subject matter of the inquiry, the judge was independently identified by the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, at the request of the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

In convening the inquiry, the judge was appointed to inquire “…as he shall in his absolute discretion consider appropriate, into the reasons and circumstances leading to Mr Ian McGrail ceasing to be Commissioner of Police in June 2020 by taking early retirement,” according to a legal notice published in the Gazette on Friday to confirm the appointment.

“The Commissioner [of the inquiry, meaning the judge] is to ascertain the facts and report to the Government on the above matters.”

“Save as the Commissioner [of the inquiry] may in his discretion determine, the Inquiry is to be held in public at a venue, and to commence on a date, to be specified by the Government by notice in the Gazette.”

Mr McGrail retired from the RGP early in June 2020, stepping down as police Commissioner after a 36-year career and half-way through his term in the top post at the Royal Gibraltar Police, raising questions and fuelling speculation as to the reasons for the sudden decision.

At the time, the Gibraltar Parliament was told that the Gibraltar Police Authority, having first obtained agreement from both the then Governor, Nick Pyle, and from the Chief Minister, had invited Mr McGrail to take early retirement.

No reasons were given for the decision, although in explanations to Parliament the Chief Minister referred to the collision earlier that year between an RGP vessel and a suspect speed boat, in which two Spanish nationals died and another two men were injured.

After he stepped down, Mr McGrail issued a statement through his lawyer, Charles Gomez, and said that, without an independent judicial inquiry, there was “a real risk” to Gibraltar’s reputation as a parliamentary democracy under the rule of law.

In July that same year, Mr Picardo said the government did not see a need for an inquiry but that Mr McGrail’s suggestion that Gibraltar’s reputation could be “tarnished” without one left it no other option.

The GSD has raised serious concerns about this issue on numerous occasions since, insisting it was in the interest of democracy that there be clarity as to why Mr McGrail left his post just two years into the job.

The dates for commencement of the inquiry will depend on the availability of Sir Peter Openshaw and counsel, No.6 Convent Place said on Friday.

It added that the full report on the inquiry will be published by the Government, subject only to such redactions as Sir Peter Openshaw may himself consider appropriate.

A Gibraltarian barrister in independent practice in London and Gibraltar, Julian Santos, has been appointed as counsel to the inquiry.

The Government has appointed Sir Peter Caruana to represent it before the inquiry.

Further information about the conduct of the inquiry, the evidence to be taken by it and its procedure will be published and communicated to parties by the inquiry itself.

“As the Covid waters start to recede it is time to start this inquiry,” said the Chief Minister.

“I also expect to soon be able to convene the Covid inquiry.”

“In the context of this inquiry, and to guarantee independence and perception of independence, I have asked the Governor to identify a retired High Court judge of England and Wales.”

“Additionally, I have asked Sir David to sign the Commission establishing the inquiry, under the Public Seal of Gibraltar.”

“I look forward to receiving and publishing the findings of the inquiry.”

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