As we mentioned yesterday, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has today given judgment in the case of the Chief Justice of Gibraltar, referred to them under section 64 of the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006.  By a majority of 4 to 3, the JCPC advised that the Chief Justice should be removed from office by reason of his inability to discharge the functions of his office.  The official press summary is not yet available on the JCPC’s website but is attached here. It is also published in full by the Gibraltar Chronicle and by Joshua Rozenberg on his blog.   It has now been made available on the JCPC website – along with the press summary and the tribunal report – see here.  A copy of the judgment in HTML format can be found on the Bailii website here.

The majority (Lords Phillips, Brown, Judge and Clarke) held that, although
a number of the criticisms made by the Tribunal were unjustified there had been repeated and serious shortcomings and misjudgements in public behaviour. In particular, the Chief Justice permitted himself initially implicitly and finally explicitly to be associated with unjustified accusations made by his wife that the Chief Minister was bent on hounding him from office.

His conduct brought his office into disrepute and had the practical effect that he would be obliged to recuse himself from trying cases involving the Government.  The incidents had resulted in an inability on the part of the Chief Justice to discharge the functions of his office and, as a result, he should be removed.  The minority (Lords Hope and Rodger and Lady Hale) held that the Tribunal’s approach had shown a marked lack of balance and the approach of the majority
failed to give proper weight to the crucial importance of protecting senior judges against attacks by the executive upon their efforts to uphold judicial independence in their jurisdiction.
Judicial officers should not be removed from office save in circumstances where the integrity of the judicial function itself had been compromised.  The Chief Justice should have been given the opportunity to resign and for no adverse inference to be drawn against him if he did so.

The case is likely to be the subject of international debate, heightened by the strong division of opinion within the JCPC.  See our previous commentary on the case here.

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