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COI requests AG’s submissions on transcript of hearing

The Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex where the main government offices are located.

Sir Gary Hickinbottom, the sole Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), has invited the Attorney General Dawn Smith to make submissions as to why he should not publish the full transcript of the Commission’s first hearing held on May 4.

Once he has received those submissions, the Commissioner will then decide whether the transcript can be published, with necessary redactions if appropriate. 

Sir Gary intends for these transcripts to be made available on the COI website. Public access to the transcripts will ensure transparency and avoid the misreporting of hearings. 

During the first hearing, the Commissioner heard oral submissions from Smith on her application to participate in the COI in her own right and on behalf of a number of identified government bodies.  

The Commissioner also received evidence from the Cabinet Secretary, Sandra Ward. 

Confidentiality Issues

Meanwhile, controversy arose this week after local media reported on Sir Gary’s earlier statement that action can be taken for breaches of confidentiality in releasing unauthorised details of the hearings. 

The statement had emphasised that no recordings can be made of any hearing – public or private – save for any authorised recording that Sir Gary causes to be made.

In response, the Commission’s Secretary, Steven Chandler, yesterday issued a release aimed at correcting what he felt was a misinterpretation that had arisen in the media’s reporting of the Commissioner’s opening statement as to his decision to hold private hearings.

“The suggestion in some media reporting that the Commissioner wishes hearings to be in private or “secret” has no foundation,” Chandler said. 

He added: “It is his wish that each hearing is made public to the fullest extent. However, he is required to take into account the rights and obligations of those who appear before him.”

“In respect of hearings in which there are no issues such as privilege and confidentiality, it is the Commissioners’ intention that they be live-streamed,” Chandler said.

Privilege, confidentiality and the gov’t

According to the release, a number of governmental bodies have already provided documents to the COI. With respect of these documents, the Attorney General has confirmed that the government reserves its position with regards to its rights of privilege and confidentiality.

Chandler said these issues affect how such documents can be used and disclosed by the COI.

However, he added that the Commissioner has decided that his initial hearings need to be in private to allow for the secure provision of information and documents over which such rights are or may be maintained. The provision of such information and documents is necessary to the continued work of the COI.

Chandler noted that the Commissioner’s intention is that, wherever possible, the work of the COI should be conducted in public to keep the BVI public aware of its progress.

The Commission of Inquiry was issued on 19 January 2021 to look into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place amongst the public, elected and statutory officials in recent years. 

Follow BVI New’s coverage of the 2021 Commission of Inquiry on Instagram @BVINewsOnline #TrackingTransparency at www.bvinews.com.

Copyright 2021 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

10 Comments

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  1. Why hide? says:

    Why hide the transcripts? What do we have to hide? The AG has to be working on the instructions of the government so when the Premier asked to have the hearings in public he didn’t really want that. Having public transcripts help to keep all parties honest and keep the public informed.

    Like 17
    Dislike 3
    • Observer says:

      The Premier used the ploy of wanting the COI hearings public just to frighten off any potential witnesses coming forward. To quote from the good book : “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”

      Like 16
  2. The Nation says:

    Transcripts as opposed to live video or audio for the public to hear?! This is after all a commissioner said to be done for the BVI public?! Transcripts can mislead context of certain statements…And sometimes those steno people don’t take down accurate notes.

    Like 7
    Dislike 2
  3. Sarah says:

    But wasn’t the Premier the one begging for the hearings to be public not they arguing whether to make transcripts public… you can’t make this stuff up

    Like 10
  4. Joshua says:

    Mr Commissioner could you please give the learned ag a time to present. We all know that she might not be capable of presenting and may need help. Remember at her swearing in the speaker informed her that from time to time he would be seeking external advise. What a slap that the chief law adviser to government will be bypass by the police of parliament.

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  5. Deh Watcha says:

    All should be made public.

    • Geana says:

      The English man said they will be public. What’s your problem with that? Sometimes I wonder if ppl read stuff or jus guess what it says.

  6. YOUTH says:

    This CoI IS NOT TRANSPARENT

  7. FACTS says:

    The new modern day slave whip now being used by the UK is a Commiwsioner of Inquiry.

  8. Shaggy says:

    Let it go . It ended long time. You think the English still mad at the Romans?

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