October 23, 2020

Cayman: Office of the Ombudsman releases 2018 Annual Report – police complaints top

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Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston reported on the office’s first full year of operations with the tabling of the 2018 Annual Report in the Legislative Assembly. In 2018, after 3.5 short months in operation, her mandate was expanded from oversight of government decision-making and freedom of information appeals to include public complaints about police conduct and whistleblower protection for both the public and private sectors.

The main purpose of the Office of the Ombudsman is to advance public confidence in government, police, and in some cases the private sector, through impartial and fair oversight by an independent office of the legislature.

In this first full annual report, Ms. Hermiston details the workload of the office including 229 inquiries answered, 230 cases received and 155 cases closed. The report summarizes the types of informal resolutions and investigations conducted by the office. “The case studies in this report serve as a reminder of the impact our work can have on people’s lives”, noting that as the office evolves and develops expertise and capacity, she intends to initiate investigations into systemic issues beginning in 2020.

“My role is not to police politicians, or overturn their political decisions,” she adds, “but to ensure decisions made by civil servants, and in some instances, private sector employees, are fair, reasonable and in compliance with applicable law and policy”.

The top category in the first year was related to police complaints. This was to be expected given that the office was tasked with addressing an eight year backlog. The office began working with the RCIPS to improve their services by providing bespoke training sessions to police during their customer service training.

The report also highlighted the considerable effort in outreach and the development of guidance documents in anticipation of the coming into force of the Data Protection Law in 2019. While the office only saw two whistleblower complaints in 2018, progress was made in developing guidance documents which will be available in 2019.

“Given the challenges involved in the amalgamation of two existing offices with the addition of two areas of responsibility, it is a significant accomplishment to receive a clean audit opinion from the Auditor General” says Ms. Hermiston.

In addition to the Annual Report, a report on the government’s performance with respect to Freedom of Information requirements was also tabled in the Legislative Assembly in compliance with section 40 of the Freedom of Information Law.

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