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Justice group files letter against police

Police commissioner Stephen Corbishley (File photograph)

A pressure group has claimed the police complaints system is “broken” and accused senior officers of being unfit for duty in a letter to the Governor.The Civil Justice Advocacy Group said Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley and other top officers had not followed proper procedures in reviewing a complaint against senior officer Nicholas Pedro in a letter to John Rankin.They also alleged Mr Corbishley and Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons had joked about the group’s complaint when Mr Pedro was promoted to Superintendent.The letter said: “We already had concerns about the efficacy of the Police Complaints Authority, and it is our belief that it will now be used to effectively rubber stamp the decision already made relating to Mr Pedro.“Additionally, we must express our view that the way the complaint has been handled is an affront to public confidence.“It is our opinion that the police complaints system in Bermuda is broken and, based on our experience, the senior officers involved appear to be unfit for their responsibilities in relation to the same.”CJAG had accused Mr Pedro of gross incompetence after he reported that recordings from the Court of Appeal did not exist after CJAG members asked them — but the recordings were found earlier this year after a public access to information request was made.An internal inquiry into the alleged misconduct cleared Mr Pedro of any wrongdoing.CJAG said in the letter: “It is our belief that neither the Commissioner nor either of the Acting Deputy Commissioners handled the complaint in accordance with the law and that their actions have shown contempt for the Police Complaints Authority Act 1998 and the processes identified in the said Act as it relates to the responsibilities of the Commissioner of Police.“The current outcome of the complaint is that a decision was made to clear Mr Pedro of any misconduct and that decision was made without any of the required oversight of the Police Complaints Authority.”The letter added that Mr Pedro was promoted to Superintendent “post haste” after the decision.The CJAG said Mr Corbishley made a joke about the investigation during Mr Pedro’s promotion ceremony.Mr Corbishley was claimed to have said: “A bit of a down part of your career. You implemented Pati — Public Access to Information — in the BPS in 2014. Um, I mean I say that jokingly ...”The CJAG added: “We cannot help but believe that this joke about Pati was in direct reference to our complaint, and the fact that our Pati request had exposed the inadequate and misrepresented investigation overseen by Mr Pedro into our ‘missing’ court recordings.”Mr Corbishley responded that he was aware of the letter of complaint.He said: “Given their letter is to His Excellency the Governor of Bermuda it would be inappropriate for the BPS to respond to its content. “However I note that enquiries continue into the matters raised by CJAG overseen by deputy commissioner Simons. “These outstanding enquiries have been advised to CJAG and need to be progressed to gain a full understanding to all circumstances of the matters raised.”CJAG was set up in the wake of a series of civil proceedings in the Court of Appeal which started in 2011.Several of those involved had represented themselves as “litigants in person”, and when they applied for recordings of their hearings to assist with appeals they planned to make to the Privy Council, they were told by court officials they could not have them.The group made a criminal complaint at the end of 2013 and alleged that court officials who refused to provide the recordings may have destroyed evidence, conspired to defeat justice, attempted to pervert the course of justice or destroyed or damaged public records.Mr Pedro headed the investigation and wrote to CJAG in September 2014 that “ ... audio recordings were ‘not withheld or destroyed’ because they did not exist in the first place” and that no charges would be brought.But the recordings did exist and they were found earlier this year after CJAG made a Pati request.Gitanjali Gutierrez, the information commissioner, said in a decision on the case: “The Judicial Department conducted additional searches of the Court Smart System, which led to the identification of records.“The records included daily tests from the Court Smart System for the Court of Appeal sessions in 2011, as well as actual recordings of various proceedings.”CJAG filed a complaint of gross incompetence against Mr Pedro for the “botched investigation”, which they said had set back their legal fight by five years.