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Government House stonewalls questions over Corbishley

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Governor Rena Lalgie (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Governor has stonewalled questions about the abrupt resignation of the Commissioner of Police.

Rena Lalgie announced last Friday that Stephen Corbishley, a British officer who joined Bermuda Police Service on a five-year contract in August 2018, had quit and that she had accepted his resignation “with immediate effect”.

She provided no reason for his resignation in her announcement, and nor was one given in a statement released later on Friday by the BPS.

Mr Corbishley’s contract, obtained by The Royal Gazette under public access to information, required him to give “three months prior written notice” to terminate his contract.

Ms Lalgie would not comment on why he was not working a notice period or whether he received any severance pay.

A Government House spokeswoman said: “Mr Corbishley tendered his resignation which the Governor accepted with immediate effect and his employment came to an end on Friday. He will receive his contractual entitlements.”

A BPS spokesman said last week that Mr Corbishley was overseas for personal reasons. It is understood he had been on sick leave since early September.

Last Friday, he updated his Facebook cover photo with a photograph of an astronaut sipping a beer on the moon, prompting followers in Bermuda to thank him for his service and wish him all the best.

Former police commissioner Stephen Corbishley (Photo from Facebook)

The commissioner, who was previously a chief superintendent for Kent Police in England, was appointed by then Governor John Rankin, after consultation with the Public Service Commission.

His starting salary as the island’s most senior police officer was $200,905, with an annual housing allowance of $22,447, according to his contract.

Mr Rankin told the Gazette in December last year that Mr Corbishley’s salary was $203,897, plus the $22,447 housing allowance.

The publicly-funded post comes out of the Ministry of National Security budget, though a Government spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette in December that the contract was “negotiated by the Governor”.

Ms Lalgie would also not comment this week on whether the investigation she ordered in March into allegations of gross misconduct against Mr Corbishley had concluded, whether the final report into those allegations would be made public and whether any other complaints had been made to her or Mr Rankin about Mr Corbishley’s conduct.

The Government House spokeswoman said: “The Governor appointed an independent investigator in line with the Police (Conduct) Orders 2016 – it would not be appropriate to make further comment at this stage.

“Complaints made by a member of the public about a Bermuda Police Service officer are dealt with by the Police Complaints Authority.”

A Government House spokesman told the Gazette last October: “Disciplinary control over the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police is vested in the Governor, acting after consultation with the PSC in accordance with section 87 of the Constitution.”

The gross misconduct inquiry was ordered by Ms Lalgie after suspended police officer Pc Robert Butterfield made complaints about alleged breaches of professional behaviour by Mr Corbishley.

At the time, Mr Butterfield was suspended on full pay because of criminal and internal investigations into allegations that he and another officer, Sergeant Mark Monk, made a confidential court document with information about Mr Corbishley’s private life public.

Both officers had their homes searched and phones and other electronic equipment seized last December as part of the criminal inquiry.

They were told in July this year they would not face prosecution, though both still face an internal disciplinary process.

Mr Butterfield’s complaints to the Governor included an allegation that Mr Corbishley passed information gathered during the criminal inquiry into Mr Butterfield to his personal lawyer to pursue a civil claim for damages against him.

Mr Corbishley’s lawyer wrote to the officers in March warning he would sue them unless they paid him compensation for causing “serious harm” to his reputation and “significant personal anxiety and distress” by allegedly making public the confidential court document.

So far he has not issued civil court proceedings against either officer.

Mr Butterfield said yesterday that though it was “always difficult to hear that a colleague has resigned” he was “happy at the thought that a Bermudian may very well be picked for the top post”.

“I believe in my people and we are just as capable as anyone the world over.”

He added: “It is my hope that my colleagues can come together as a cohesive unit and assist the new commissioner, holding whoever it is to account for the betterment of the BPS and the community it serves.”

Mr Monk and his wife Trisha made a criminal complaint against Mr Corbishley and other officers regarding the raid on their home.

The couple are also seeking a judicial review of the police’s decision to search the property and seize equipment.

Mr Monk said: “We are happy to see him go and will still be pursuing justice, as the BPS has still not investigated our criminal complaints against him and the other officers involved, nor our misconduct complaints.

“We are still pursuing our judicial review for unlawful search and seizure of our property. Hopefully the BPS will see sense and agree to settle this matter with my wife and me.”

A BPS spokesman said the internal conduct matters relating to Mr Monk and Mr Butterfield were ongoing, as was an investigation into the criminal complaint made by the Monks.

“As these matters remain under investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further,” he added.

It was not possible to reach Mr Corbishley.

Darrin Simons, the deputy commissioner, is acting in the top job until a new commissioner is found.

Ms Lalgie said: “I will soon be advertising the police commissioner job in Bermuda and internationally and I expect there to be a strong field of applications from candidates within the Bermuda Police Service and from other jurisdictions.”

Renee Ming, the Ministry of National Security, did not respond to questions about Mr Corbishley’s sudden resignation and whether he received any severance pay.