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GSD questions appointment of new GPA chairman

GSD Headquarters. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The GSD said the appointment of a consultant and former partner of Hassans as the new chairman of the Gibraltar Police Authority was “surprising and inappropriate” given the Chief Minister’s links to the firm, adding it could undermine public confidence in the appointment.

The Opposition was reacting to news last week that Peter Montegriffo, a highly regarded King’s Counsel and former GSD minister, had been appointed chairman of the GPA.

But the criticism was rejected by the Gibraltar Government, which accused Mr Azopardi of “rank hypocrisy”.

In a statement, the GSD said Mr Montegriffo was an “excellent lawyer of unimpeachable reputation”, adding his appointment to the GPA post would be welcomed and “without reproach” were it not for his connection to the law firm.

“The chairman of the Police Authority should not be drawn from the same law firm as the Chief Minister,” the GSD said.

“This simply does not look good.”

“The Chief Minister should have used his power to ensure that the next chairman would not be drawn from Hassans, the firm with which he and senior ministers have close links.”

“In the event the reverse has happened and shows the Chief Minister is simply going about his business like before without factoring in any criticisms of the past.”

“This undermines public confidence in the appointment of the chairman of the Police Authority.”

The GSD pointed to evidence heard by the McGrail Inquiry of alleged conflicts of interest arising from the Chief Minister’s interests in and relationship with Hassans and some of its senior lawyers.

The former Commissioner of Police and Gibraltar Police Authority figure prominently in the Inquiry, which has also heard evidence as to whether the Chief Minister influenced the decision-making of the Police Authority.

“There have been allegations made before that Inquiry of inappropriate conduct by the Chief Minister and an inability to ringfence conflicts in a way that affected institutions or affected how things should be done,” the GSD said.

“That Inquiry has not concluded and still less reported.”

“For a new Police Authority chairman to be drawn from Hassans when the Inquiry chairman has not yet reported is a blinkered appointment done in blatant disregard of what is a current live governance issue in Gibraltar.”

The GSD said the longstanding professional relationships between Hassans and the Chief Minister and other senior members of the Cabinet were “inescapable and inevitably affect the public perception of the appointment”.

It added that one of the members of the Cabinet linked to Hassans was the Minister for Justice, who had “clear interplay” in the field of policing.

“From a governance perspective the appointment should not only be the right one it should be seen to be right and the optics of an appointment of a lawyer from the Chief Minister’s law firm to this sensitive post are just wrong,” the GSD said.

“Quite apart from everything that is currently before the Inquiry it is important to reflect on what this all means for future governance structures, the making of appointments to public posts and how conflicts of interest are properly contained.”

“An immediate lesson that should be drawn is that given the sensitivity of the post the chairman of the Police Authority should not be drawn from the same law firm as the Chief Minister.”

The GSD noted that under the Police Act, the appointment of a Police Authority chairman is made from persons proposed by the Governor or Chief Minister.

“Given that the Governor has only been here for a few days it is likely that the appointment was heavily influenced by names proposed by and with the approval of the Chief Minister,” the Opposition added.

“Even if that was not the case the appointment would still be inappropriate because of the perception it creates.”

“In circumstances where the Chief Minister and other senior ministers have a relationship with Hassans, it does not help the perception of good governance for a former partner of Hassans who has been a lawyer there for 35 years to be appointed as chairman of the Police Authority – an authority that is at the heart of policing, was created by the constitution and needs to play a careful role in institutional balance in the interests of good governance.”


Last night, No.6 Convent Place issued a statement rejecting the GSD’s criticisms.

"I suppose I should not be surprised by Keith Azopardi's continued hypocrisy on matters,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in the statement.

“He comments without regard to the fact that the lawyer ably representing the GPA, Mr James Neish KC, is from his and the Hon Mr Bossino's law firm, Triay Stagnetto Neish, and that some of the lawyers representing Mr McGrail have, at least until recent years, been members of the GSD Executive Committee.”

“Mr Azopardi also seems to forget that two out of the four leaders of the GSD were drawn from Hassans, most recently Mr Feetham and initially Mr Montegriffo himself, and that Mr Azopardi himself was once a member of that firm.”

“Mr Azopardi's rank hypocrisy knows no bounds, but it should be no surprise to anyone.”

“Mr Azopardi publicly said that he only stood for the leadership of the GSD because he was unable to persuade Mr Montegriffo to return to active politics to lead the party, regardless of Mr Montegriffo's legal background.”

“He nonetheless makes that an issue now that Mr Montegriffo has agreed to lead the GPA and take over from Dr Britto, who retires having done an excellent job.”

“When the dust settles, the public will see that Mr Azopardi will object to everything and to everyone in order to try to steal headline.”

“He gives little thought to the wider interests of Gibraltar and democracy in our community whilst pretending otherwise.”

“The Government continues to support the choice of the Specified Appointments Committee and His Excellency the Governor, and believes that Mr Montegriffo will be an excellent leader for the GPA.”

“Perhaps, on calmer reflection, Mr Azopardi and the members of the Executive Committee of the party Mr Montegriffo founded, will agree."


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