Chief Justice Hon. Anthony Smellie has sided with Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin and the so called “Ritch report” on Cayman’s immigration system will remain under wraps.
The Information Commissioner’s request for the report to be handed over to him so he can decide whether it should be subject to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has been turned down.
Premier McLaughlin welcomes the decision made on 26 January, saying it brings clarity to the issue of legal privilege.
In a statement, his office outlined the key points it felt supported its stance:
“In refusing the Commissioner’s reference, the Chief Justice decided that:
- Legal professional privilege is an absolute and fundamental right, recognised by the FOI Law itself;
- In the absence of clear and unambiguous words, legal professional privilege can be regarded as subject to being infringed only by the necessary implication of other provisions of the FOI Law, here in particular, section 45;
- The important objective of the FOI Law of ensuring public access to government information does not itself give rise to the necessary implication that the objective takes precedence over the equally important public interest in the preservation of legal professional privilege;
- Neither expressly, nor by necessary implication, does the FOI Law vest the Information Commissioner with the power to infringe or abrogate legal professional privilege. It is also doubtful that he can call for the legal advice given to the Government without purporting to nullify the Premier’s certification of exemption issued pursuant to section 25 of the FOI Law;
- For those reasons, the Order made by the Information Commissioner is of doubtful validity and efficacy;
- In seeking to exercise its powers of contempt for the enforcement of the Order, the Court, both as a matter of the proper exercise of its oversight jurisdiction and as a matter of its proper exercise of discretion must first be satisfied that the Order, like an Order of the Court itself, is valid and enforceable and that it would be appropriate to do so;
- For all the foregoing reasons, in the present circumstances it would not be appropriate to enforce the Order. The Commissioner’s reference was therefore refused.”
The immigration report was commissioned after the Chief Justice himself found glaring problems within the Immigration Law.
As a result, no application for Permanent Residency has been considered under the law change of October 2013, leaving 900 or so people in limbo.
On the issue of Permanent Residency (PR), Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin says movement is forthcoming.
Following an extensive period of consultation, he says Cabinet will shortly consider amendments to the immigration regulations that, once approved, will allow the various immigration boards to continue processing applications for permanent residency and for the immigration appeals tribunal to hear PR appeals.
He says a more detailed announcement will be made shortly.