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New date announced for main hearing of McGrail Inquiry

The Garrison Library, where the McGrail Inquiry is scheduled to start in March. Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The main hearing of the public inquiry into the controversial early retirement of former police Commissioner Ian McGrail will take place from September 25 to October 20, with scope for an additional week if needed.

The McGrail Inquiry had been scheduled for March but had to be delayed following a suspected data breach affecting its documents.

“The Inquiry recognises the need to conduct the Inquiry in a timely fashion, whilst also allowing adequate time for preparation and the availability of legal teams,” the Inquiry said in a statement on Tuesday issued by its lawyers, Attias & Levy.

“A period of 19 months from the date of Commission (February 4, 2022) to commencement of the main Inquiry hearing in September 2023 is by no means an inordinately lengthy period of time for a complex Inquiry of this nature.”

A police investigation into the alleged data breach is currently underway and is being led at the request of the Royal Gibraltar Police by a senior investigating officer from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

At the time that the data breach was revealed last year, two people were arrested on suspicion of computer misuse and data protection offences. The two remain on police bail while investigations continue.

Separately, the inquiry team also commissioned its own forensic report into the nature and extent of the alleged breach and is cooperating with both the RGP and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority.

The Inquiry will next meet on February 8 for its third preliminary session, where Julian Santos, the solicitor to the Inquiry, will provide an update on the alleged data breach and the Inquiry’s investigation.

That session will also deal with other practical matters including the timetable for disclosure, responsive witness statements, written submissions and other timetabling matters.

The Inquiry is headed by Sir Peter Openshaw, a retired UK High Court judge of the Queen’s Bench Division in England and Wales.

Under the terms of his Commission, the retired judge has “absolute discretion” to probe as he sees appropriate the reasons and circumstances leading to former police Commissioner Ian McGrail’s early retirement in June 2020, after a 36-year career and halfway through his term in the top post at the Royal Gibraltar Police.

The Inquiry has already held two preliminary sessions in public, centred primarily on procedural matters including policies and protocols for the handling of documentation and its approach to privacy and data protection issues.

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