Secret findings point at removal from office of the Chief Justice

A 3-line Press release issued yesterday at 12.30pm announced that the matter of the Chief Justice was being referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

It was said that no further information was available.

This, in full, is what the announcement said: "Acting in accordance with section 64 (4) of the Gibraltar Constitution and on the advice of the Tribunal chaired by Lord Cullen, the Governor has today requested that Her Majesty refer the matter of the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Schofield, to the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council."

Such a requirement would arise when a decision is taken to remove a judge from office.

Section 64(4) of the Constitution says that if the Governor considers that the question of removing the Chief Justice from office for inability or for misbehaviour ought to be investigated, then the Governor shall appoint a tribunal.

The tribunal was appointed and carried out its duties last July.

They were required to "inquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the Governor and advise the Governor whether he should request that the question of the removal of that judge should be referred by Her Majesty to the Judicial Committee, and if the tribunal so advises, the Governor shall request that the question should be referred accordingly."

Clearly, what must have happened is that the Cullen tribunal has recommended that the judge be removed from office and therefore, on its advice, the matter is being referred to the Privy Council.

We asked the Convent if nothing further was being made available such as, for example, detailed conclusions leading to the decision.

The reply from the Convent was this: "There is nothing more we can add at this stage. The Governor recognises the desire of Gibraltar to see the full report of the tribunal and wishes to release the report at the appropriate time. This is not however the appropriate time in light of the legal process still in progress."

In legal and other circles it is being said that the tribunal was held in public amid a blaze of publicity, with - quite rightly - a transcription service being made available and photographs being allowed to be taken.

As far as everyone is concerned, the work of the tribunal ended taking its evidence back in July and it has now submitted its full report including its recommendations and conclusions. As such, its deliberations have ended.

It could well be that the report in its entirely should not be published at this juncture, but it is not understood why its conclusions should be a secret.