Disquiet about the suspension of the Chief Justice

Question by Andrew Mackinlay: Chief Justice, suspension of. This is a source of considerable disquiet, not necessarily the circumstances but whether or not the suspension of any Chief Justice anywhere cannot be done lightly or in an unethical way.

I am not suggesting it is done but I think some of us are concerned that there are sufficient safeguards. There is, through the Governor, if you like a London-Foreign Office dimension because he is a creature of the Foreign Office and he has authorised or acquiesced in the suspension. In the United Kingdom there is a very high hurdle to suspend or even dismiss a judge. Are you happy about the machinery to deal with both the specific instance, because at this moment in time the Chief Justice is suspended, you know, are we meeting international norms? Could you discuss, comment as it were because certainly there is considerable disquiet amongst your colleagues here about that?

Answer: I am sure you are right Mr Mackinlay that the process and the specific will cause disquiet for anyone who is in personal contact of course, or for anyone who has contact with the Chief Justice. It goes without saying that it is a remarkably difficult time for the individuals involved, so I am not going to comment on the....

Mackinlay: I was not asking about that, it was just the principle. I mean in a democracy can you have a small legislature or Government or even a Governor suspending a Chief Justice? Should not the hurdle be higher? Should not there be perhaps a London dimension to this?

Answer: Well the Committee of course in its findings will reflect on this but the established process is that. This is not a decision for London it is a decision for the Governor and under the Constitution it is the Gibraltar Judicial Services Commission, to address these very points of whether to suspend the Chief Justice. So there is a legitimate view as to whether it is something that London should agree to or have a role in or a smaller role in, it is a judgement for the Committee and it is a judgement generally but outright this is an issue that should be handled by the Governor in the context of this Constitution and it is an issue, we talked earlier about Gibraltar having additional power and role in terms of its own democracy and its own functioning and this I think is the important part of it.

Mackinlay said he wanted to return to this later, but went on to seek information if the Chief Justice was a contract Chief Justice or if he was there on perpetuity until retirement age.

Murphy was saying that it was his understanding that, when the questioner interjected: A judge is there for a specific period of time in overseas territories or anywhere else. It is particularly valuable because, basically, if he is not liked he could be got rid off by removing his contract. "This cannot be right, can it?"

Speaking generally Murphy went on to point at the the importance of the independence of the judicial process.

The Chairman called on another MP to raise another issue.