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GSD hits back at Govt in row over justice

The GSD last night hit out at the Gibraltar Government for its “arrogant” response after the Opposition highlighted concerns relating to the administration of justice.

The GSD had spoken out about a number of issues which were either impacting on the administration of justice and the provision of mental health services, or related to procedural failures.

That drew a stern response from the government, which said the concerns highlighted by the GSD had either already been addressed or were the result of situations that were beyond the government’s control.

It also accused the GSD of “wilful ignorance” of parliamentary rules for issuing a statement about matters that were currently before the courts.

But as the row continued yesterday, the GSD insisted that the Government’s “high handed and arrogant” response to the very serious issues “illustrates why this Government is rapidly losing the confidence of the people”.

“They have become the very opposite of what they stood for when they were elected into Government in 2011,” the party said in a statement.

The GSD accused the Government of hiding behind the fact that the case brought by the doctor against the GHA has not been fully determined in order to refuse to answer any questions on it.

But, it said, the fact is that default judgment has been entered against the GHA because of failures on the part the GHA including missing a key deadline on disclosure in 2014.

“The consequences of that failure is that the taxpayer faces a very substantial bill and it is a matter of public record that the claimant doctor is seeking damages in the sum of £1 million.”

“Her lawyer accused the GHA of ‘distasteful delaying tactics’ in a case that goes back to 2012,” the GSD added.

“The idea that the Opposition should remain silent or that the Government can hide behind the fact that the case is still ongoing to refuse to answer legitimate concerns, is nothing short of nonsensical.”

Additionally, the GSD said the issue of liability has been determined because a judgement has already been entered against the defendant and the only issue that remains to be determined is the amount of damages payable.

“There is nothing improper in an Opposition asking questions on what are clear administrative failures, so we can better understand whether the system needs improving.”

On the issue of mental health, the GSD said there is significant concern in the community, which the Government has an obligation to address.

“It is true that questions on this issue had been lodged in parliament for the September session, but that session was adjourned until 18 October and there is no guarantee that they will be answered on that day or in the month of October,” the party said.

“We do not criticize the Government for prioritizing Brexit and we understand that we are at very crucial juncture in the process.”

“However, to accuse the Opposition of not understanding the rules of Parliament betrays an arrogant high handedness that has become the Government’s trademark.”

“On the substance of this issue the Opposition notes the explanation of “unexpected sick leave” and recruitment difficulties faced by the GHA and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

“If we continue to receive reports from the public and public servants of failures within the system, we will not hesitate to discharge our responsibilities as an Opposition and we will continue to raise these issues whatever inconvenience it causes the Government.”

Finally, on the matter of the Community Service Officer, the GSD welcomed the fact that the post has been filled.

But, it said the fact is that the post was vacant for 13 months resulting in a significant backlog of community service work.

“Why was it vacant for so long? Why did the Government allow the post to remain vacant, with the consequent detrimental effect it had on the administration of justice? What lessons had been learned? This issue again seems to us to indicate a problem with succession and recruitment planning.”

Shadow Minister for Justice Daniel Feetham said: “Neil Costa is a hard working Minister and I have said publicly on more than one occasion, that he has always been very helpful when I have referred issues to him.”

“I was at the opening of the legal year when the Chief Justice noted that he had to pick up the phone and speak to Mr Costa about delays in the provision of psychiatric reports and that within days of the minister’s intervention, those reports were provided.”

“The integrity of the system, however, cannot depend on how conscientious or otherwise a minister is.”

“It is ironic that a day after the over the top response by the Government to our concerns on delays in mental health cases and recruitment of mental health professionals, the most senior judge in the land notes how the minister had to personally intervene to unblock delays in the provision of court reports”.

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