The Openshaw Inquiry- the real McGrail. A personal appraisal by Charles A Gomez Image

Author: Charles A. Gomez

What started as a police investigation into the alleged sabotage of a national security system has turned Gibraltar inside out.

 

By the early summer of 2020 our client, the then Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, a 36 year unblemished career behind him, lost his job.

 

We challenged the Gibraltar Government to convene a Public Inquiry and on the 4th February 2022 the Governor appointed retired judge Sir Peter Openshaw to chair an Inquiry. Following delays and several preliminary hearings and the submission of thousands of pages of evidence the main Inquiry hearing commenced on the 3rd of April 2024 with the oral examination of evidence closing on schedule on the 9th May 2024.

 

In a first for Gibraltar but in keeping with applicable principles of open justice the proceedings were broadcast live (with a 10 minute delay) by GBC Tv, and the consensus is that Gibraltar will never be the same again. What was heard cannot be unheard nor what was seen be unseen.

 

Final oral submissions are due in June and the Chairman’s report is likely to be finished by the Autumn.

 

I declare an interest.

 

Having represented Ian McGrail since he walked into my Chambers with a one page procedural aberration from the Gibraltar Police Authority dated 22nd May 2020 purporting to be an invitation to retire, I have no hesitation in saying that he has been the victim of a grotesque miscarriage of justice. The Authority quickly withdrew their shambles of an invitation and retreated in shame but what has happened since has been Kafkaesque. I am confident that this will be acknowledged when the Inquiry reports.

 

There have been allegations of inducement of witnesses to dig up the dirt on Mr. McGrail, arrests for making false statements (still to go to trial) in separate judicial review proceedings, an exodus of police officers which according to the current police chief Richard Ullger depleted his ranks by up to 20%. Mr. McGrail himself was accused but promptly acquitted at trial of sexual assault said to have taken place in 2018. A few weeks before the hearings the Gibraltar Government pushed through a law to restrict public access and disclosure of evidence and promptly filed a Restriction Notice amid disquiet in Gibraltar and abroad. A trawl through back issues of the Gibraltar Chronicle, the Olive Press and the annals of Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation as well as The Times of London, the Guardian and the Economist will reveal much, and more is to be found in the Inquiry website: coircomp.gi

 

Giving his evidence during the inquiry current police chief Richard Ullger said that at one point he feared for Ian McGrail’s physical safety and effectively gave him an Osman warning (Osman warnings are issued if police have intelligence of a real and immediate threat to the life of an individual)…..

 

Dealing with the onslaught these past 4 years reminded me of the fast pace of the Bruce Lee films of my youth; perhaps “Enter the Dragon”; but it has taken a toll on our client and his family and loyal friends. Confronting the strange post-colonial establishment that passes for governance in Gibraltar has been and continues to be an arduous task.

 

Those ranged against Ian McGrail probably did not count on his tenacity and fighting spirit.  The law is the guarantor of justice and “lux gentium lex”. We deployed a formidable team on his behalf – the forensic brilliance and work ethic of Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers have ensured that the light has shone with searing brightness into the darkest recesses. My admiration too for Nicolas Gomez and Daniel Benyunes and the rest of our litigation team for the hours spent going through the thousands of pages of evidence or in the police station late at night or at the crack of dawn or in the courts as we sail through this tempest confident that a safe port will soon be in sight

The Openshaw Inquiry- The Real McGrail. A Personal Appraisal By Charles A Gomez


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