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Freedom of Information facing a legal test

For the first time Section 45 of the Freedom of Information law will be tested in the courts.

The section gives the Information Commissioner’s Office power to see all documents. But Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin declared the Ritch Immigration report off-limits this week. Prompting a legal stand-off between the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Premier.
Attorney Richard Barton says don’t expect a quick resolution of the stalemate.
” I think we are a long way from any definitive position on this,” Mr Barton says giving his take on the looming court battle between the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Premier, something he says will be a good test for Cayman.

“Threat of litigation at this level is always beneficial in giving some level of certainty and it is good for democracy,” he explains.

It’s uncharted territory. But firstly the Chief Justice must determine if the Premier’s authority is similar to the Governor’s in exempting documents.

“And secondly if in fact he does then I believe that will be the end of the argument for the Information Commissioner or it remains to be seen what steps are to be taken beyond that,” Mr Barton says.

The ICO wrote the Chief Justice to consider the failure to hand over the report a contempt of court after the Premier refused to turn over the report. But the attorney explains contempt is no light matter.

“The immediate thought process will be incarceration for essentially flying in the face of a court order. Obviously each matter would turn on its own,” Mr Barton says.

Ending this dispute falls to the chief justice and Mr Barton says a thorough analysis and interpretation will be done to resolve the matter. The question is will the Chief Justice be allowed to see the report to make that determination? Cayman 27 understands no formal notice of the initiation of contempt of court has been received by the Premier’s Office.

About the author

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath is a Trinidadian journalist with 16 years media experience with a strong background in print with her most recent stint at The Cayman Reporter. She has a BA in Mass Communications, as well as, an Associate degree in Journalism and Public Relations.

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