Contentious allegations of phone hacking today threatened to mar the proceedings of the Commission of Enquiry into the Alexandra School.
In the controversial matter that Principal Jeff Broomes’ counsel, Cecil McCarthy, QC, asserted could end up in the law courts, the principal’s other legal representative at the tribunal Vernon Smith, QC, said his client’s constitutional rights and the commission’s evidence could have been compromised.
It became known last week that messages originating from Broomes’ cell phone ended up on the mobile and home landline of Barbados Secondary Teachers Union counsel, Hal Gollop. LIME is the service provider for all of the phones involved and they have been involved in the investigation being led by the Royal Barbados Police Force.
The issue, which was previously discussed in the chambers of Commissioner Frederick Waterman, came to a head today, with Smith claiming the principal’s cell phone “was hacked”.
“I must alert the commission about my unease about what has developed in respect of the hacking of my client’s telephone, I am satisfied that my client’s telephone was hacked,” Smith said this morning after the commission reconvened at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
Waterman responded immediately, telling the legal representative that the matter was “best dealt with in chambers because I mentioned already that it has nothing to do with the commission itself because the police are investigating and I am not a policeman, I am a commissioner, and the police are investigating and we are hoping to get something soon from the police.”
But Smith continued, stating: “This matter … is on the blogs and it has been spread in all the media in this country. It concerns my client because it is a fundamental breach of his fundamental rights under the Constitution.”
“I am indicating that the commission has been compromised by all … that has happened.
Waterman: “Mr. Smith I do not see it that way; I am the commissioner and I have not been compromised by anything because that is a matter for Mr. Broomes and LIME, a matter for Mr. Gollop and LIME because all of the messages that were received on Mr. Gollop’s phone LIME is aware of them and if they are there they are there, I don’t know what Mr. Broomes’ phone is like. The investigator has spoken to the police and Mr. Gollop has spoken to the police.”
Smith, noting that Broomes had also spoken to the police, stated: “When Mr. Broomes was asked to give his statement to the police … they informed him that it was happening for two weeks before it was drawn to their attention.”
“It must affect the evidence that was given before this commission … if the telephone calls to my client, his counsel and what not have been interrupted it must affect… I just wanted to draw it to your attention…
“When it was drawn to your attention…, it was accepted that we would deal with it in camera, but now it has become public … I am just expressing my concerns about it…,” Smith added.
After Waterman said he had concerns too, McCarthy said he wanted to speak on the issue because it “could end up in Whitepark Road”.
“This matter could end up in Whitepark Road outside of the commission, the commission has nothing to do with it,” Waterman responded.
McCarthy: “One of my calls ended up on Mr. Gollop’s phone and this my concern. Clearly if messages intended for Mr. Broomes have ended up on Mr. Gollop’s cell phone and landline it clearly is an indication that there has been some mischief.”
“The fact that that has occurred may well put us on notice that it could be happening to me all like now.
Waterman: “My phone could be hacked … that is why I involved the police and if someone ends up being prosecuted then so much the better. I know who is not going to get prosecuted (and) it is me because I know nothing about it. But I am going to encourage the police to find out who it is, to take the matter before the courts, report the matter to the DPP.”
McCarthy: “My concern is this, I don’t want if this matter happens to be at the court it has been said that I never objected. My submission, my lord, is that the people from LIME should be ask to come to the commission and give evidence because they must know how this matter could have occurred and the commission ought to try to find out. With the greatest respect the time line that you have cannot trump the fundamental justice of my client’s case.
Waterman: “What fundamental justice? We are all interested in justice, but why should I summon LIME. LIME is in my terms of reference?”
The commission’s senior counsel Milton Pierce said the issue was a private one between two individuals and “nothing whatsoever to do with the commission”. (SC)