GSD renews concern over McGrail inquiry delay, vows to conduct probe
The GSD has again questioned the delay in convening a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the early retirement of former police Commissioner Ian McGrail.
In a statement, the Opposition vowed it would hold an inquiry if elected to government at the next general election, which is not due for two years.
The party has repeatedly raised concerns about this issue and said it was in the interest of democracy that there was clarity as to why Mr McGrail left his post just two years into the job.
Mr McGrail retired from the RGP early in June 2020, stepping down as 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 Mr McGrail had been invited by the then Governor, Nick Pyle, and by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo to retire early.
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 last 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.
He said at the time the inquiry would take “some weeks” to set up but over a year later, a judge has yet to be appointed to handle the probe.
On Monday, the GSD said the delay was not acceptable given the serious nature of the issue.
“It was very serious and unprecedented for an outgoing police Commissioner to make that statement and call for an inquiry,” said Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.
“It implied clearly that there was more than met the eye and that not all information as to what had transpired had been put into the public domain.”
“Given the backdrop of pressures on him to go at the time this is serious and deserves proper and full investigation.”
The government appointed Sir Peter Caruana, QC, as its counsel for the inquiry and liaised with Mr McGrail's representatives during the summer of 2020 in order to progress with arrangements.
No.6 Convent Place said earlier this year that a UK judge willing to take on the inquiry had been identified.
But the process appears not to have moved beyond that against the dual pressures of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
As yet, there has been no public confirmation that a judge has been appointed to chair the inquiry and there is no date fixed for it to commence.
“Once a judge is appointed to lead the inquiry it will then be a matter for the chairman of the inquiry how to proceed,” Mr Azopardi said.
“But without the Government taking that step nothing can happen.”
“What is the reason for the delay?”
“Understandably it causes public speculation that there is something to hide here. That is not good for our democracy.”
Mr Azopardi said it was in the public interest that the early retirement “in these circumstances” of the most senior officer in the RGP be fully investigated and explained.
“The police fulfil a clear and independent role in our democracy and as such it is important to get to the bottom of this and for there to be transparency as to what happened,” he said.
“Given the clear reluctance of Mr Picardo in moving things forward we are announcing today that we are committed to holding an inquiry into these circumstances if elected to government.”
“It is now clear to people that this will happen if the GSD are elected and there will be no hiding place from the prospect of an inquiry.”