BVI: Letter from attorney-general to commission of inquiry

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Gary Hickinbottom - Commissioner

BVI Attorney General’s Chambers

The attorney-general has written to the Commission of Inquiry to express her concerns about the handling of the hearing conducted on 28 September.

The attorney-general writes that a misleading and damaging impression was needlessly given to the public by those proceedings. The manner of questioning implied, incorrectly, that the elected government had acted irresponsibly regarding the security of the Territory by granting Belonger Status to persons convicted of serious criminal offences.

In fact, no application for Belonger Status was granted by the Cabinet in the two cases it discussed in November 2019, nor since.

Indeed, in one of the two cases the discussion was about a person whose Belonger Status was granted long ago, and years before a subsequent conviction for a serious offence.

These critical facts were not made clear during the hearing because the confidential Cabinet minute recording the discussion two years ago was brought up in questioning without warning, thus preventing the minister from being able to verify the facts.

This was expressly contrary both to the basis on which confidential documents had been provided to the Commission and to assurances given by the Commission to witnesses that the Commission would take steps to make sure that they “are not taken by surprise”. Since, in fact, no notice was provided to the minister that these cases were to be raised, he understandably was obliged to say that he did not recall the outcome.

The attorney-general’s letter regrets having to write to the Commission in this vein but records her concern at the violation of the Commission’s own protocols and assurances and the potential resulting damage to the public interest.

The government of the Virgin Islands has maintained from inception its commitment to cooperating with a transparent COI that will result in fair and just outcomes for all concerned, and remains committed to continuing its cooperation in this regard.

A copy of the letter is attached:

20210930_letter_to_the_rt_hon_sir_gary_hickinbottom_minister_wheatleys_oral_examination.

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