Dunkley queries secretive pepper-spray payouts
A confidential settlement paid by the Government to protesters who were pepper-sprayed in a demonstration outside Parliament should have been made public, an Opposition MP said yesterday.
Michael Dunkley, who was the One Bermuda Alliance premier at the time of the December 2016 demonstrations over the new airport development, called the payoff “a deal done under the cloak of darkness”.
The Ministry of National Security said an undisclosed settlement had been agreed with complainants who were seeking legal action against the Police Complaints Authority.
The payments came after the PCA’s investigation of the clash found fault with senior police management, but not with individual officers tasked with clearing demonstrators who had blocked the gates of Parliament.
A ministry spokesman said the parties had come to “an amicable conclusion”.
He added: “The settlement is a legally binding, confidential document which prohibits the parties from divulging the details or nature of the settlement.
“As such, the Ministry of National Security and, by extension, the Government, is unable to comment any further on this matter.” Mr Dunkley said: “Government ministers certainly can make such payments as they believe are appropriate, but they have to be justified. It needs to stand in the sunshine of public scrutiny.”
He said the settlement “sends a message that the Government does not put much strength in the report the PCA filed.
“If they did, they would not even consider payment. They would let the judicial process take place.”
Mr Dunkley said he believed the amount paid out could be as high as $200,000.
A total of 23 protesters were involved in a civil action filed against the PCA in February 2018.
The plaintiffs, represented by law firm Trott and Duncan, asked for a judicial review “in the matter of the Police Complaints Authority Act 1998 and in the matter of the Police Complaints Authority report” of August 10, 2017.
The Royal Gazette was told by a source last summer that the case had been settled.
But neither Delroy Duncan, for the protesters, or Jeffrey Elkinson, the PCA chairman, would comment on whether a settlement had been reached.
LaVerne Furbert, from the Bermuda Industrial Union, which assisted the protesters in obtaining legal advice, also declined to comment.
A public access to information request submitted to the PCA by The Royal Gazette in September last year, which asked for all records held by the authority on the civil case, was rejected.
The decision has been appealed to information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez.
A request for records from the Supreme Court about the case, also filed in September last year, was unsuccessful.
Mr Dunkley also warned that the settlement could set a precedent for other ministries.
He added that 14 police officers were injured as a result of the protest.
Mr Dunkley said: “Government has not said if they will get anything. That looks like a double standard to me.”
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