The Openshaw Report

Former Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail has been charged with sexual assault on a female police officer while he was in post.

The charge was confirmed on Thursday afternoon by John McVea, a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Mr McVea was asked by the Commissioner of Police, Richard Ullger, to lead the independent criminal investigation as the Senior Investigating Officer.

Mr McVea also leads the investigation into an alleged data breach relating to a public inquiry into the circumstances around Mr McGrail’s early retirement.

“Further to information received, I was asked by the Commissioner of Police to lead an independent criminal investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a female police officer in 2018. The allegation was against the former Commissioner of Police Mr Ian McGrail,” Mr McVea said.

“Shortly before 7am this morning, Mr McGrail was arrested at his home on suspicion of Sexual Assault. He was taken for interview at New Mole House Police Station.”

“Following this interview process Mr McGrail has been charged with the offence of Sexual Assault and will appear before the Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, Friday 14th April. The alleged sexual assault happened at New Mole House Police Station while Mr McGrail was the Commissioner of Police."

“As the matter has now been charged to court, I am unable to expand any further.”

Mr McGrail will appear before the Magistrates’ Court on Friday at 10am.

STATEMENT

Mr McGrail’s lawyer, Charles Gomez, issued a statement to the press hours after the charge was confirmed.

“Mr Ian McGrail vigorously denies any wrong-doing and is committed to presenting his defence to the Court as soon as a trial is set down for hearing,” the statement said.

“He appreciates the seriousness of the allegations and the importance of a fair trial for all parties involved.”

“He has the right to be presumed innocent and will work tirelessly to ensure that his reputation and rights are protected throughout the legal process.”

“Mr McGrail recognises the sensitive nature of this case and the absolute need for respect and privacy for all involved and their respective families.”

“We ask that the public reserve judgment until the facts are presented to the Court. Our client deserves a fair and impartial trial, and we are confident that justice will be served in due course.”

The former Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail, pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual assault on Friday morning during a brief hearing in the Magistrates’ Court.

Mr McGrail, 56, faces one charge of sexual assault relating to an alleged incident in 2018 involving a female police officer while he was serving as Commissioner of Police.

Family and friends packed into the public gallery to support Mr McGrail, who earlier this week in a statement through his lawyers vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

His lawyer, Nicholas Gomez, asked for the matter to be dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court and for a trial date to be set swiftly.

Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto accepted jurisdiction but left open the option of sending the case to the Supreme Court if he felt it appropriate once he had assessed the evidence.

Prosecutor Christina Wright told the court the docket of evidence was practically ready and that witness availability would need to be sought.

The case was adjourned until next Thursday, April 20 at 10am and Mr McGrail was bailed in the sum of £500.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the former police commissioner Ian McGrail have suggested that “jobs are being offered in exchange for raking muck” against his client.

Mr McGrail denies one count of sexually assaulting a female police office in 2018. He appeared at the Magistrates Court on Thursday morning.

McGrail lawyer suggests 'jobs offered for raking muck' against his client -...

The GSD's Daniel Feetham believes the Government's management of public finances has weakened its negotiating position on the Treaty.

He was speaking on GBC Viewpoint to Ros Astengo

Feetham believes Govt's management of public finances has weakened...

Mr Feetham also said the Government is being harmed politically due to public perception over the arrest of the former Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail.

He said rightly or wrongly, some people suspect there's a conspiracy going on behind the scenes.

Viewpoint is available online now or you can catch it on repeat Sunday night at 9pm.

Feetham says Govt being harmed politically due to public perception over

One of the two individuals arrested last November in connection with the data breach at the McGrail Inquiry has been released from arrest.

The other remains on police bail.

Last month the scope of the investigation, led by former Northern Ireland police detective John McVea, was widened to include other areas.

In answer to GBC questions, the Royal Gibraltar Police has now confirmed that one of the arrested individuals has been released from arrest.

Ian McGrail has had police bail extended until the 25th July.

The former Police Commissioner was arrested last month on suspicion of misconduct in public office, conspiracy to obtain unauthorised access to computer material, and unlawful obtaining of personal data.

The arrest was connected to material directly related to the data breach in the inquiry

Mr McGrail however has not yet been charged with any of these matters.

The McGrail Inquiry will be “catastrophic” for the reputation of the Royal Gibraltar Police, the outgoing chairman of the Police Federation has said, in a valedictory email that laid bare the fractious relationship between the staff organisation and senior management at the force.

In the email to officers, Maurice Morello, who is retiring from the force and leaving the post ahead of an election to choose a successor on May 23, pulled no punches.

He said RGP officers were “the backbone” of the organisation but were not backed by a senior management team which, he claimed, did not understand the Federation’s advocacy role in defence of its members’ interests.

Mr Morello said the already-difficult relationship between the RGP Command and the Federation had shifted “drastically” after the McGrail Inquiry opened and it became known that he and the Federation secretary would give evidence, “which will expose some of our top managers’ inappropriate behaviours”.

“The relationship deteriorated even further when several officers came forward with information, which could be very damaging to the RGP and several individuals,” he wrote in the email, which was first reported by GBC but a copy of which has been seen by the Chronicle.

“In recent months, I have seen Command more concerned at how these officers received protection, rather than the nature of the extremely compromising allegations, which have been made, some of which are criminal and which require investigating thoroughly.”

And he added: “This Inquiry will be catastrophic for the reputation of the RGP and the reputation of policing in Gibraltar.”

“What I worry about the most, is that you, in the front line and who deal with the public on a daily basis will be the recipients of the public’s comments.”

Mr Morello was hard-hitting too about the stance taken by the RGP in the inquest into the fatal collision at sea in 2020, in which a jury found the two Spaniards who died in the incident had been unlawfully killed.

He said the RGP had not supported the officers in the inquest and had then opposed a judicial review filed by the officers in a bid to quash the verdict of unlawful killing. Just last month, the Supreme Court dismissed the claim for judicial review, upholding the verdict.

The officers intend to appeal that latest decision but Mr Morello said the RGP would again oppose it, adding it was also seeking costs for the earlier claim.

Mr Morello described the RGP’s position as “an embarrassment”, adding: “I suppose it is easier to blame individuals than highlight organisational failings.”

“In all my years in policing, I had never witnessed such a gut wrenching display of abysmal leadership and poor decision-making on behalf of those leading the organisation...” he said in the email.

He said too that the application for costs would probably mean the Federation “forking out a large chunk of money”, adding this would “cripple” its finances.

“Who in their right mind would want to work for an organisation like this?” he said, adding: “The organisation has a particular talent of breaking officers.”

Mr Morello praised officers for their hard work and resilience and, despite his criticisms, insisted that “policing is a great career”.

But he said management of people in the organisation was “especially vital” and that the RGP Command did not excel at that, “despite what our senior managers may think”.

“This is something which officers have been complaining about since I can recall, and this never seems to improve,” he wrote in the email.

Mr Morello said the RGP had become “master at copy and pasting” UK policies and procedures “even though we know one size does not fit all”.

“No vision, no direction, policing by social media.”

The RGP declined to comment on the contents of the email, adding only that this was a matter for the outgoing Federation chairman.

But the force has in the past rejected persistent public criticism from the Federation, insisting it has taken wide-ranging steps over recent years to address shortcomings identified during independent audits by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, and has worked to place the focus on the well-being of its officers and support staff.

In a report last October, HMICFRS said the RGP had “significantly improved” its effectiveness by making “good progress” addressing its recommendations to promote best practice.

The HMICFRS audit of the RGP was a full and thorough inspection that covered major cultural, operational and leadership changes implemented over the past two years against the backdrop of heavy policing demands during Covid and as a result of Brexit.

It involved detailed documentary work and multiple interviews with serving police officers, as well as with personnel from other agencies.

The report was the third in six years and HMICFRS said the RGP had addressed around 80% of all recommendations in that time, some of which had been outstanding since 2016.

It found too that work was under way to address the remaining areas.

“We are pleased to report that the RGP has made good progress since 2020,” HMICFRS said in the report at the time.
“The force’s senior leadership team has prioritised addressing our recommendations and AFIs [areas for improvements].”

“This is part of its efforts to improve the force’s effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.”

“It appointed officers to lead work on each of our recommendations and AFIs. It also set up a new governance procedure.”

“This has allowed it to oversee progress and implement change more effectively.”

Former police Commissioner Ian McGrail has been released from police bail in connection with one of the three suspected offences for which he was arrested last March.

Mr McGrail, 57, had been arrested by UK officers flown to Gibraltar to investigate an alleged breach of data relating to the McGrail Inquiry.

The former Commissioner was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to obtain unauthorised access to computer material, misconduct in public office, and unlawful obtaining of personal data.

He was granted police bail while the investigation continued but was not charged at any stage in relation to the suspected offences.

On Friday, the Royal Gibraltar Police confirmed that Mr McGrail had been released from police bail in relation to the suspicion of conspiracy to obtain unauthorised access to computer material.

It means he is no longer under arrest in respect of that suspected offence.

Mr McGrail remains under arrest and on police bail in respect of suspicion of misconduct in public office and unlawful obtaining of personal data.

Charles Gomez, Mr McGrail’s lawyer, declined to comment on the latest development.

After the arrest in March, however, Mr Gomez said in a statement on behalf of his client that Mr McGrail was confident investigators would soon find he had not committed any of the suspected offences for which he was arrested.

At the time, Mr Gomez said Mr McGrail had learnt in November 2022 of a possible breach of data kept by the Inquiry and brought it to the attention of the Inquiry, which referred the matter to the RGP.

“The importance of this is that had it not been for the reports to the authorities made by Mr McGrail, the data breach might have gone undetected,” Mr Gomez told reporters at the time.

‘LIVE AND ACTIVE’

On Friday after confirming Mr McGrail’s release from police bail, the RGP said the investigation into the inquiry data breach remained “live and active”.

Prior to Mr McGrail’s arrest in March, two other individuals had also been arrested by investigating officers.

One of those two people was released from bail some weeks ago, while the second remains under arrest and on police bail.

Former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail has been released from arrest regarding Conspiracy to Obtain Unauthorised Access to Computer Material contrary to S362 Crimes Act 2011 & Crimes Act 2011.

The suspicion was in connection with a serious data breach relating to the Public Inquiry.

The RGP has confirmed the matter remains a live and active investigation.

Bail continues in relation to Misconduct in Public Office, Contrary to Common Law and Unlawful Obtaining of Personal Data, Contrary to the Data Protection Act.

Nick Pyle, the former Deputy Governor and acting Governor at the time that former police Commissioner Ian McGrail took early retirement, has been engaged by the Chief Secretary to advise on civil service training and reform.

The development was revealed by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo as he responded to questions in Parliament from Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Azopardi asked the Chief Minister whether he believed it was appropriate to have offered Mr Pyle a job given his key role as a core participant in the McGrail Inquiry, which is examining the circumstances around Mr McGrail’s controversial early retirement.

Mr Azopardi said “it doesn’t look good” in the context of “a very delicate inquiry” that was investigating serious allegations which, he said, touched on the integrity of constitutional institutions.

The questions drew a stinging reaction from the Chief Minister, who said they “unfairly” cast “suspicions” on both himself and Mr Pyle.

He pointed out that both the Attorney General and himself continued to be employed and paid by the Gibraltar Government, irrespective of their status as core participants in the inquiry, and that this was “entirely proper”.

Mr Picardo said the assumption behind the question was that “somehow” a fee would be paid in return for “improper behaviour” in the context of the inquiry.

“Does [Mr Azopardi] genuinely believe that a senior civil servant, whether he's a UK civil servant or a Gibraltar civil servant, a senior civil servant who has become a core participant in an inquiry established under statute, can be coerced or bought, as he's suggesting, to give evidence in respect of that inquiry, which would be different if he had not been employed in respect of matters that happened three years ago, most of which are set out in writing, on email, on WhatsApp?” the Chief Minister told Parliament.

“And is the allegation that he will tell a different version of the truth of what happened three years ago if he's employed by the government to do a job that he can do for the benefit of the Gibraltarian taxpayer, for the benefit of the Gibraltar public service, and that if he were not so employed, he would give a different version of the truth?”

“My God, there is a different standard of integrity that [Mr Azopardi] applies to third parties than the one he would be expecting applied to him, because I do not believe that it is possible to even perceive that one can buy the evidence, the version of the truth, from someone in this situation.”

“But never mind, the leader of the Opposition can allege it not because it matters, not because there's any grain of truth in it, but just because by planting the seed of doubt, he seeks to grow a plant of alleged disrepute against the government on any issue.”

But Mr Azopardi maintained the pressure, insisting that “the perception is there”.

“How appropriate is it for the perception of that inquiry for the government to be offering a job to a core participant that was not an employee?” he asked the Chief Minister.

“That's the issue. That's the issue. Can you not see that?”

“Utter nonsense”, the Chief Minister countered, dismissing too any suggestion that the democratic integrity of Gibraltar’s institutions was in question.

“There is not one shred of evidence put in the public domain, or not put in the public domain, that can be used to sustain such a fanciful notion,” he said.

The Chief Minister said people could “rumour monger” freely – “God knows, in the past weeks I've had to put up with enough rumour mongering” – but that to question the integrity of institutions without a “scintilla of evidence” was to “play with our democracy”.

“I said that we would hold an inquiry into this because it was called for by the person who is the subject of the inquiry,” Mr Picardo said.

“And I said we will ensure that the inquiry is able to get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

“The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

“When the truth is out, people will see that those who have talked about the democratic integrity of the institutions of Gibraltar being at risk are no more than jokers who deserve no credibility whatsoever, who have failed Gibraltar by raising spectres that will be seen to have been no more than utter ghosts.”

“And the people of Gibraltar will then judge.”

Responding to Mr Azopardi, the Chief Minister told Parliament that Mr Pyle had been retained “given his exceptional experience as a senior diplomat” and the fact that he was staying in the area of Gibraltar having left the post.

He said My Pyle was being paid a fee of £80 an hour for his work with the Chief Secretary.

The Chief Minister was asked when the engagement commenced and how much had been paid to date, but replied he did not have that information.

FORMER POLICE OFFICERS

Mr Azopardi also quizzed the Chief Minister on how many former police officers had been employed in the public service since June 2020 – the date Mr McGrail retired from his post - and whether they retained their former salaries or were paid within the scales of the new posts.

Mr Picardo replied that a total of 13 former police officers had been transferred from the RGP to different areas of the public service in that time.

He said salaries depended on different circumstances around any transfer.

He said officers who had sustained injuries during their duties in the RGP retained their former salaries, while those who transferred under the protection of whistleblowing rules did so on a “no detriment” basis as provided in law.

Those who transferred for other reasons were paid the salaries relevant to the post.

The GSD says the employment of former Deputy Governor Nick Pyle is “completely inappropriate while the McGrail inquiry is pending”.

A statement from the GSD follows below:

The engagement by the Government of former Deputy Governor Nick Pyle is completely inappropriate while the McGrail inquiry is pending. The Chief Minister has revealed he is being paid £80/hour or in other words a rate that would amount to over £155,000 if he were to work full-time for a year. That would be on a higher scale than even the head of the Civil Service, the Chief Secretary, is paid.

Mr Pyle was Acting Governor in 2020 and like the Chief Minister is one of the core participants in the circumstances that led to the early retirement of the former Commissioner of Police, Mr McGrail. Extremely grave allegations have been fielded in that case about misconduct and that raise issues about the independence of the police. Those issues have yet to be considered or explored by the Inquiry Chairman.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said: “For Mr Pyle to be given a job to advise on civil service training & reform in the meantime is staggering. He is not a known expert on civil service training or reform. He is not a member of the Gibraltar civil service. He is not an expert on Gibraltar public services or public sector administration. Why is he being employed at all? This simply looks like the Chief Minister giving him a job to keep him sweet while difficult issues are being looked at. Imagine the scandal in the United Kingdom if a serving Prime Minister gave a job to someone who, together with him, was central to the facts of an Inquiry in which the Prime Minister was accused of wrongdoing before that case had even been heard. It would be inconceivable and would receive public condemnation if it did happen. It looks really bad. It appears from the answers Mr Picardo gave in Parliament that he is oblivious to those issues. He apparently thinks anything goes, however it looks.”

The GSD has said that Mr Picardo “has no answer” to the point raised by the GSD and “resorts to lies and red herrings.”

A statement continued: “The basic unanswerable point is that in the midst of an Inquiry into the events of 2020 in which Mr Picardo is accused of wrongdoing he has scandalously given a job to a main participant in the discussions with Mr McGrail. That is wholly inappropriate and smacks of keeping him sweet while difficult things are to be decided upon. That is undeniably the perception. The idea that Mr Pyle has been appointed for his expertise is farcical and simply a convenient narrative given the other surrounding circumstances. Indeed, when asked in Parliament about how this had come about Mr Picardo said that it was “simply...because Mr Pyle indicated that he was staying in the area and therefore he’s doing this and other jobs in the area.””

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “It would be unimaginable for a serving UK prime minister accused of wrongdoing to offer a job to another key figure in the middle of an Inquiry before the case has been heard. That would be roundly condemned as a wholly inappropriate move.

“Mr Picardo is now desperately trying to say anything to survive and to divert from those undeniable perceptions. He has even gone as far as falsely saying that the GSD is smearing civil servants by talking about Mr Pyle. The thousands of Gibraltar civil servants won’t feel it is a smear campaign to name Mr Pyle, the former Deputy Governor, because he’s been offered a job by Mr Picardo. Many of those thousands of civil servants will think it is strange that Mr Pyle is being paid at a rate higher than the Chief Secretary when there are hundreds of civil service and public sector vacancies. If there is anyone devaluing our civil servants or undermining our public service and institutions it is Mr Picardo. There are former Chief Secretaries and other senior civil servants who will have a clearer grasp of the challenges of our public service who will also feel it is strange to see Mr Pyle’s appointment.

“Of course, we understand that Mr Picardo should want to raise red herrings and smokescreens in a bid to save his skin. But after 12 years people are used to his tactics. He plays the man and not the ball and in an endless tirade of half- truths, twists, spin or downright lies. It’s time for him to leave and the sooner the better. If there are questions about fitness to govern these are now squarely about him. He sees nothing wrong with what he is doing, he is mired in conflicts and fighting desperately for political survival in the face of crisis after crisis.”

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the early retirement of the former Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail, has confirmed it will hold its next preliminary session on the 19th July at the Garrison Library.

The inquiry had been set to meet in April, but postponed its fourth preliminary hearing after Mr McGrail was arrested in March, given what it called the “extremely serious development and the live criminal investigation”.

In a statement then, it said it remained “committed and determined to fulfil its obligations”, and that it would continue its work, including providing disclosure to core participants and reviewing witness statements and documents.

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the early retirement of the former Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail, has confirmed it will hold its next preliminary session on the 19th July at the Garrison Library.

The inquiry had been set to meet in April, but postponed its fourth preliminary hearing after Mr McGrail was arrested in March, given what it called the “extremely serious development and the live criminal investigation”.

In a statement then, it said it remained “committed and determined to fulfil its obligations”, and that it would continue its work, including providing disclosure to core participants and reviewing witness statements and documents.

6th June 2023

Former police Commissioner Ian McGrail, in an interview with UK detectives investigating allegations that he sexually assaulted a female police officer, claimed he was being “stitched up” against the backdrop of the public inquiry into the circumstances leading to his controversial early retirement.

In an interview under caution just two hours after he was arrested on April 13 in a dawn raid on his house, Mr McGrail denied the allegations and told investigating officers he feared he was caught up in a conspiracy to destroy his reputation before he could give evidence to the inquiry.

“I am dead worried that there is a masterplan to destroy my life and collapse me, all linked to the public inquiry,” Mr McGrail told the investigators.

He claimed too that he had been warned by “the serving Commissioner” – Commissioner of Police Richard Ullger – that there was “an active conspiracy against me” and that his telecommunications may be compromised.

“Mr Ullger told me people would lie if they have to in order to stick dirt on me,” he said during the April 13 interview, which took place in New Mole House in the presence of his lawyer, Charles Gomez.

Audio recordings of the interview were played during the second day of a Magistrates Court trial in which Mr McGrail stands accused of sexually assaulting a female police officer in the summer of 2018, while he was still in post and two years before his early retirement in June 2020.

He is alleged to have grabbed the complainant’s buttock after bumping into her in a corridor in New Mole House.

Mr McGrail “categorically” denies the charge and says the alleged assault never happened, and that he had scant recollection of the complainant.

Quizzed by DC Hanley and DC Marsh, two Welsh detectives from the Dyfed Powys police force who are attached to the Royal Gibraltar Police, Mr McGrail is heard on the recording repeatedly denying the alleged assault.

He repeatedly raised concerns too about possible links to the inquiry and that he was being targeted for “standing in front of police officers” investigating suspicions of corruption.

He said he believed he was up against very powerful people and that there could be serious consequences for the Gibraltar and UK governments.

“I’m talking serious, serious, serious issues here,” he said in the interview.

Mr McGrail claimed statements were being made in exchange for incentives including jobs, describing it as “jobs for witness inducement”.

“The RGP has been penetrated for sinister intent, and that is to destroy me before I can take the stand at the public inquiry,” he told the two Welsh officers during the interview.

The allegations against him were “scurrilous, malicious and full of venom”, he said in the recording, adding: “I’m being stitched up, big, big, big time.”

“This is going to destroy my life, one way or another,” he said, later telling the officers that he even feared for his personal safety.

ARREST

On Tuesday, the court also viewed dramatic bodycam footage of the moment Mr McGrail was arrested at 6.53am in his home last April 13.

In the footage, Mr McGrail is seen in pyjamas clutching his face and doubling up in disbelief as he is informed of the reason for his arrest by the two Welsh police officers attached to the RGP.

“Sexual assault?” he asked them, clearly in distress. “For what?”

“This is unreal. I can’t believe this. This is madness.”

In the video Mr McGrail calls out to his wife, who is just as distraught on hearing the reason for the arrest.

“Someone’s driving this,” Mr McGrail tells her.

“This is the inquiry.”

As he quizzes DC Hanley and DC Marsh for more information on the nature of the allegations, Mr McGrail is asked to dress and accompany the officers to New Mole House.

DC Marsh is heard telling Mr McGrail that he would be informed of the allegations in detail at the police station, trying to appeal to him that “you’ve been a police officer yourself”.

“This is beyond being a police officer,” Mr McGrail replies.

“This is a persecution. You can’t even imagine.”

“It’s destroying our lives.”

DC Hanley and DC Marsh are part of the team sent to Gibraltar to investigate an alleged data breach affecting the public inquiry tasked with investigating the circumstances around Mr McGrail’s early retirement two years into what should have been a four-year term.

They initiated the investigation into the alleged sexual assault after a statement submitted to the inquiry earlier this year by the complainant was passed by the inquiry team to the RGP.

In evidence on Tuesday during the morning session, the complainant, speaking from behind a screen to protect her identity, told the court she had not been pressured or offered any incentives to make the statement.

She said the first time she was asked whether she wanted to proceed with the complaint was in interviews with the UK police investigating team, which is led by John McVea, a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

But the court heard too that prior to making the statement to the inquiry, the complainant had met twice with two representatives of the Gibraltar Police Federation, its then chairman Maurice Morello and the secretary at the time, Leif Simpson.

A government official, Michael Crome, had also been present at the second meeting.

After that meeting, Mr Crome wrote to the Chief Minister explaining that the complainant might require the protections afforded by Gibraltar’s whistleblower legislation, including potential redeployment to another area of the public service without detriment to her terms and conditions of employment in the RGP.

The Chief Minister approved the protections should they be necessary, the court heard earlier this week.

“I was only offered protection on those terms to safeguard my career and my future,” the complainant told the court.

Charles Gomez, the lawyer representing Mr McGrail, repeatedly pressed the complainant as to whether she had been helped in drafting the statement to the inquiry.

The complainant maintained her position and insisted: “These are my words and this is my statement.”

She told the court she had not made a complaint about the alleged assault at the time in 2018 for fear that she would not be believed and it would scuttle her career prospects in what she described as her “dream job”.

But the complainant, who is still in the RGP and told the court she hopes to continue in the force, said the alleged incident left her feeling “disgusted, intimidated, repulsed and embarrassed”.

She told the court she had decided to make the complaint against the backdrop of the McGrail Inquiry after feeling that her voice would be heard and “someone would believe me”.

At the time of the alleged sexual assault, the complainant had informed only her mother, who also gave evidence at the trial from behind a screen on Tuesday morning.

Like the complainant, the mother was unable to pinpoint the exact date of the alleged incident save to say it was during summer of 2018.

“She was in a terrible state, crying a lot and very distressed,” she said of her daughter at the time of that conversation.

She felt “dirty and embarrassed,” the mother told the court.

But she said too that, while her daughter had wanted to say something “out of principle”, she was fearful about the impact on her career in the police, a job she loved “with all her heart”.

“We discussed it and decided to keep it quiet and put it behind us,” she told the court.

Nick Gomez appears alongside Mr Gomez for the defence.

Prosecutor Johann Fernandez appears for the Crown.

The trial, which is being heard by Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto, continues.

Former police Commissioner Ian McGrail said the allegation that he sexually assaulted a junior female officer in 2018 was “a delusional fantasy” concocted by the complainant, as he robustly denied the accusation and pointed to gaps and “contradictions” in her account.

In evidence to the Magistrates Court during the fourth day of his trial, Mr McGrail also alleged “an active conspiracy” to undermine his reputation ahead of the public inquiry tasked with examining the circumstances of his controversial early retirement in 2020.

Mr McGrail is accused of sexually assaulting the junior female police officer in the summer of 2018, while he was still in post and two years before his controversial early retirement in June 2020.

He is alleged to have grabbed the complainant’s buttock after bumping into her in a corridor in New Mole House.

Addressing the court on Tuesday, Mr McGrail said several offices led on to the corridor, which was “a busy thoroughfare” in the police station through which numerous people could have passed at any time.

Prosecutor Johann Fernandez put it to him that his powerful position at the top of the Royal Gibraltar Police meant he thought he could get away with it.

But Mr McGrail, who “vehemently” denies that the assault took place, said it was nonsense to think he would put his position at risk in this way.

“I worked very hard to get where I was,” Mr McGrail, who had a 32-year career in the police, said.

“Would I be so stupid?”

Sometimes choking with emotion, Mr McGrail added: “I have not assaulted her in any way, shape or form.”

“I have never had physical contact with her.”

“I have never been alone with her.”

The complainant, he said, “…has produced a delusional fantasy in coming up with this allegation.”

CREDIBILITY

The case came down to “credibility”, Mr Fernandez told the court earlier this week, and while the defendant had not been able to pinpoint the exact date of the alleged assault, UK officers who investigated the case said this was not uncommon in circumstances of this nature.

The complainant had told the court the alleged incident left her feeling “disgusted, intimidated, repulsed and embarrassed” but that she said nothing at the time, other than to her mother, for fear it would impact her career.

It was only against the backdrop of the McGrail Inquiry that she felt her voice would be heard and “someone would believe me”, she told the court.

The complainant’s mother told the court her daughter was “in a terrible state, crying and very distressed” when she called in 2018.

But Mr McGrail said it was odd that a trained police officer would not have made a note to record details of an incident she claimed had impacted her so deeply.

And he said the absence of a specific date deprived him of the ability to provide an alibi in his defence.

The court heard that the complainant had patrolled with Mr McGrail earlier in the year, claiming that, at his direction, they walked through town and that during the patrol, he had commented on how attractive she was and said they should have coffee one day.

She said the conversation had made her feel uncomfortable but that she had not realised this until after the alleged assault.

But Mr McGrail, who denies talking suggestively to the complainant or inviting her to coffee, said he believed he had patrolled that night with two female officers.

A second police officer confirmed this and told the court in a statement she saw nothing inappropriate, though the complainant insists she had been alone with the former Commissioner before that.

Mr McGrail highlighted too contemporaneous WhatsApp messages sent that night by the complainant to her then boyfriend, also a police officer, in which she described the former Commissioner as “super buena gente” and made no mention of anything inappropriate.

The complainant had spoken too of a conference later in the year, after the alleged assault, which she attended in uniform, she said, at the request of Mr McGrail.

She told the court she did not understand why a junior officer would have been asked to attend and that she was the only one in uniform at the event.

“I felt I was being used as an object and it was quite uncomfortable to be up there,” she said.

But the court saw photographs and video footage that showed Mr McGrail mixing with VIPs and delegates at the conference, at which there were numerous uniformed officers present.

The complainant appears with McGrail only in one image, in which there are other people too.

The former Commissioner said it was a PR image, one of many such photographs taken through the day in what he said had been a relaxed event.

“There’s nothing sinister about that photograph,” Mr McGrail said.

And he later added: “I’m not a criminal. I’m not a predator.”

He said his conscience was at peace but that the allegation had “turned my life upside down.”

‘SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED’

Mr McGrail was critical too of the UK team of detectives that investigated the case, adding he believed they had already decided to charge him even before he was interviewed under caution following a dawn arrest at his home on April 13.

“Whatever came out of that interview, the decision was signed, sealed and delivered,” he told the court.

“I was going to be charged.”

He said the investigators had not followed key lines of inquiry with sufficient depth – more could have been done to identify footage of the conference to test the complainant’s claims, for example – and that the officers had not acted on information he provided to them about his concerns of a conspiracy against him.

Instead, they had arrested him twice in the space of two weeks on different matters, including suspicion that he had conspired to cause a data breach affecting the McGrail Inquiry.

Mr McGrail, who was later released without charge from the data breach arrest, said it was he who had uncovered the leak and that, as a core participant in the inquiry, it was data he was legitimately entitled to see.

“The essence is that I uncovered the leak [but] the public outcry was out there [after his arrest],” he said.

“I stood to lose the confidence of the inquiry.”

During the police interview on April 13 – which was played to the court – Mr McGrail told UK investigators that he suspected he was being “stitched up” and that there was “a masterplan” to destroy his reputation ahead of the inquiry.

On Thursday, he told the court that even before he called for the inquiry, he had deposited details of his concerns with his lawyers and “people of high repute in Gibraltar and abroad in case something untoward was to happen to me”.

WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION

Over four days, the court explored concerns raised by Mr McGrail and his lawyer, Charles Gomez, that witnesses were being induced to produce statements in exchange for jobs in other areas of the public service.

The court was told 14 serving police officers had made statements to the McGrail Inquiry which had been passed to the UK team of investigators because they included allegations of potential criminality. Of those 14 officers, around five had left the force, with the remainder on sick leave.

The complainant in the trial repeatedly insisted she had not been pressured or incentivised into making her statement alleging a sexual assault.

In common with the other officers who had made statements, however, she had been offered whistleblower protection should her job at the RGP become untenable.

The “letter of assurance” – signed by the Chief Minister – meant she would retain her RGP terms and conditions if employed elsewhere in the public service, as the law required.

The complainant, who is still a serving officer, repeatedly said she hoped to remain in the RGP, which was her “dream job”.

She said the letter of assurance was only a safety net but acknowledged she would not have made the complaint against Mr McGrail without it.

Mr Fernandez told the court that complainants in cases of this sort were “often made to feel like the defendant”.

The court heard the young officer had felt this way when UK detectives trawled through years of her financial statements to see if she had received any unusual payments. They found nothing of concern.

“The only reason a young officer would go through that is because she’s telling the truth,” the prosecutor said.

But Mr McGrail was unconvinced when Mr Fernandez put it him: “Your position is she’s lying because she’s going to get something out of the lie?”

“Yes,” the former Commisioner said.

‘ABSOLUTELY NOT’

The complainant told the court she was first asked whether she wanted to proceed with the complaint after meeting UK investigators led by John McVea, a retired Detective Chief Superintendent formerly with the Police Service of Northern Ireland brought to Gibraltar to investigate the alleged data breach affecting the inquiry.

Mr McVea’s team launched the investigation into the allegation of sexual assault after receiving a copy of her statement from the inquiry team and, simultaneously, from Charles Bonfante, the lawyer for the Gibraltar Police Federation who also represents the officers who had made the statements.

Prior to making the statement to the inquiry, the complainant had first approached the Federation and met twice with two of its representatives, its then chairman Maurice Morello and the secretary at the time, Leif Simpson.

A government official, Michael Crome, had also been present at the second meeting, during which he outlined the whistleblower protections, which were later put in writing and approved by the Chief Minister. It was a standard letter, the same sent to other officers who had made statements to the inquiry.

The complainant said the second meeting took place in Zoca Tavern but in evidence to the court on Thursday, the two former Federation officials and Mr Crome said it was at the GPF offices in Lathbury.

Mr Crome, who has been the government’s liaison officer with the GPF for six years, told the court he had attended the meeting with the complainant after she first raised the allegation with the Federation, but that he had not had sight or access to her statement.

The court heard too that the interviews between Mr McVea’s team and the complainant took place in a boardroom at Hassans, Mr Bonfante’s law firm.

That raised concerns for Mr McGrail and his team, although Mr McVea said it was normal given the sensitivity of the allegation and the need for anonymity, coupled to the fact Mr Bonfante was her lawyer.

In evidence to the court, Mr Morello said that prior to the McGrail inquiry, there had never been any events that required whistleblower protection for officers.

Asked if the Federation had actively sought out officers to make statements, he replied: “Absolutely not.”

The prosecution and the defence have both closed their respective cases and will this morning sum up before Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto, who will then consider his verdict.

Nick Gomez appears alongside Mr Gomez for the defence.

The trial resumes at 9.30am on Friday.

Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto on Friday afternoon said he would not deliver a verdict in the trial of former police Commissioner Ian McGrail until Monday morning.

Mr McGrail is accused of sexually assaulting a junior female police officer in the summer of 2018, while he was still in post and two years before his controversial early retirement in June 2020.

He is alleged to have grabbed the complainant’s buttock after bumping into her in a corridor in New Mole House.

He vehemently denies the charge.

On Friday, the court heard closing submissions from the prosecution and defence at the end of a week-long trial which had initially been set down for only two days.

Mr Pitto, conscious of the impact of the case on both Mr McGrail and the complainant, said at the end of the morning session that he would try to deliver his judgement on Friday afternoon.

But when the court reconvened at 4pm, he said he had been unable to finalise his decision and a ruling setting out his reasoning.

“I feel for Mr McGrail and his family, and for the complainant,” Mr Pitto told the court, which was packed with Mr McGrail’s relatives and friends.

“But I feel it is a matter that can’t be rushed.”

Mr Pitto said he would deliver his verdict on Monday at 9.30am.

Earlier in the day, Crown prosecutor Johann Fernandez said the case came down to credibility.

“She says one thing, Mr McGrail says another,” he said in closing.

Mr Fernandez said that from the outset and despite being questioned in detail during evidence under oath, her account had remained the same.

“The core of what she said is consistent throughout and it doesn’t change,” Mr Fernandez said.

But Charles Gomez, Mr McGrail’s lawyer, pointed to what he described as gaps and “contradictions” in the complainant’s account of the alleged incident.

She had been unable to identify an exact date, for example, and had not made a note of it despite being a trained police officer and claiming it had left her feeling “disgusted, intimidated, repulsed and embarrassed”.

He said the corridor in New Mole House where the assault is alleged to have occurred was a busy thoroughfare with numerous offices leading off it.

Mr McGrail, who vigorously denied the allegation from the outset, had served over three decades in the RGP and worked his way to the top post with “an unblemished record”.

“Why would Mr McGrail have done such a thing when the consequences to him would have been abysmal?” Mr Gomez asked.

Mr Gomez pointed to other inconsistencies too, including an account of a patrol early in 2018 during which the complainant claimed Mr McGrail had spoken in suggestive terms and which, after the alleged assault, she realised had made her uncomfortable.

In contemporaneous WhatsApp messages to her then boyfriend the night of that patrol, however, she had described the Commissioner as “super buena gente” and made no reference to inappropriate comments.

The complainant had given an account too of an event which she said she had attended at the Commissioner’s request and which made her feel she was “being used as an object”.

But Mr Gomez said images and footage of the event showed the Commissioner mixing with delegates and VIPs and undermined the complainant’s claims. They only appeared together in one image alongside others at the event.

Mr Gomez highlighted other examples too which he said, taken together, showed a “proclivity of the complainant to make inaccurate and essentially false statements”.

Mr McGrail had alleged during the trial that he believed there was an “an active conspiracy” against him to undermine his reputation ahead of the public inquiry tasked with examining the circumstances of his controversial early retirement in 2020.

The complainant, a serving police officer, had told the court she only came forward against the backdrop of the McGrail Inquiry because she felt “someone would believe me”.

The court heard she had received a “letter of assurance” under Gibraltar’s whistleblower legislation as “a safety net” to protect her career and future prospects.

She insisted no one had pressured her or offered any inducement to make the statement, and that her desire was to remain in the RGP.

But Mr Gomez said that for the complainant to claim she had not come forward earlier for fear she would not be believed was “a slur” on the senior officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police, which he described as a long-established organisation widely held in high repute.

In essence, Mr Gomez told the court the complainant had “made it up”.

Mr Fernandez said the claims of a conspiracy against Mr McGrail aired during the trial were “sheer speculation” and “self-serving interpretations”.

He said nothing in the letter of assurance received by the complainant “can be taken as evidence of anything other than a safety net”.

He added that other unrelated allegations made by the complainant in a statement to the McGrail Inquiry – which was later passed by the inquiry to the police and triggered the investigation into the alleged assault – would have afforded her whistleblower protection without putting her at the centre of a high-profile trial.

And he insisted that the fact the complainant had made the allegation and subjected herself to the scrutiny of a police investigation and a trial pointed to her credibility.

Past experience showed it was normal in cases of this nature for complainants not to be able to identify specific dates, he told the court.

“A delay in this sort of allegation does not mean it is a false allegation,” he said, later adding: “If this is a complete fabrication, why choose such a bad location for the lie?”.

Mr Fernandez said complainants who lie in such cases “don’t usually opt for less detail…they embellish”.

But “the narrative doesn’t change,” he said of the complainant, even when she was “being torn apart”.

“She doesn’t embellish what she has to tell the court,” the prosecutor said.

“That might lead to the conclusion that she’s sticking to the truth come hell or high water.”

Nick Gomez appears alongside Mr Gomez for the defence.

The court will reconvene on Monday at 9.30am.

Former police Commissioner Ian McGrail was on Monday found not guilty of sexual assault after a week-long trial at the Magistrates Court.

Mr McGrail had been accused of grabbing the left buttock of a female police officer in the summer of 2018 but from the outset had vehemently denied the charge.

He earlier told the court the alleged incident was “a delusional fantasy” that had never happened.

As he heard the verdict Mr McGrail fought back tears and, choking with emotion, said only: “Thank you.”

Addressing a courtroom packed with Mr McGrail’s friends and family, Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto said he had listened with care to the evidence during the trial and concluded he sided with the former Commissioner.

Mr Pitto acknowledged the evidence given to the court by the complainant and described as “surprising, but understandable” that she had been unable to pinpoint an exact date for the incident she was alleging.

This was “far from unusual” in cases of this nature, he said.

But Mr Pitto cited too the “unreliability” of evidence presented by the Crown to support her claim.

He said evidence before the court relating to a patrol early in 2018 and a public event later in the year, which the complainant said had made her uncomfortable about Mr McGrail’s intentions, did not support her case and even contradicted it.

Mr Pitto described Mr McGrail as a man of good character and said this added to his credibility.

During the trial, Mr McGrail told the court he feared there was “an active conspiracy” to undermine his reputation ahead of the public inquiry tasked with examining the circumstances of his controversial early retirement in 2020.

Over five days, the court explored concerns raised by Mr McGrail and his lawyer, Charles Gomez, that witnesses were being induced to produce statements to the McGrail Inquiry in exchange for jobs in other areas of the public service under whistleblower legislation.

The complainant, who first made the allegation in a statement to the inquiry in January this year, said during the trial that it was only against the backdrop of the McGrail Inquiry that she felt her voice would be heard and “someone would believe me”.

The court heard she had been offered whistleblower protection by the Gibraltar Government should her job at the RGP become untenable, though her desire was to remain in the force.

The complainant said the “letter of assurance” under Gibraltar’s whistleblower legislation was “a safety net” to protect her career and prospects, insisting no one had pressured her or offered any inducement to make the statement.

She acknowledged, however, that she would not have proceeded with the complaint against Mr McGrail without that protection.

On Monday, Mr Pitto said he was satisfied the letter “does not constitute an inducement” and that the complainant’s statement to the inquiry, which triggered the criminal investigation leading to the trial, “was hers”.

But he said that, ultimately, he preferred Mr McGrail’s evidence over that of the complainant, finding the former Commissioner not guilty of the sole charge of sexual assault.

Mr McGrail left court surrounded by his family and friends and made no statement to reporters outside.

His lawyer, Mr Gomez, made only a brief comment, telling reporters: “It’s been seven weeks of hell in the context of three years of non-stop aggravation.”
Johann Fernandez appeared for the Crown.

Mr Gomez was assisted in Mr McGrail’s defence by Nick Gomez.

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The Government has described a statement by Ian McGrail's lawyer as "false and disgraceful".

The Chief Minister says there is an open and transparent process under a retired UK judge to get to the truth, "however uncomfortable" that may be for the former Police Commissioner.

The Chief Minister says there is an inquiry into the circumstances of the former Police Commissioner's early retirement because Mr McGrail called for it.

Fabian Picardo says there have been criminal charges because the inquiry he called for referred statements to the Royal Gibraltar Police.

He says Mr McGrail's legal counsel for the Inquiry, which includes very experienced UK King's Counsel, is being entirely funded by the taxpayer and will cost the public millions of pounds.

The Government says this provision emphasises its commitment to fairness and equal opportunity for all parties before the inquiry.

Mr Picardo says therefore, there cannot be said to be any uneven contest whatsoever.

He says comments by Mr McGrail's legal team represent a false picture of a conspiracy, which he says its being used against the Government and against Mr Picardo himself for the "party political" advantage of his opponents, who he says have "close links" to Mr McGrail's lawyers.

The statement by Number Six did not address Charles Gomez's assertion that none of the lawyers representing Mr McGrail are members of the GSD executive.

The leader of the GSD, Keith Azopardi, also said on social media that this was not true.

GBC asked Number Six on what the Chief Minister had based the assertion, and whether he checked this with the lawyers or the GSD.

In response, Number Six said Nick Gomez, who represented Mr McGrail at the Magistrates' Court, was elected to the GSD executive in 2016, and that no statement had been made suggesting he was no longer in the committee.

It also said his wife, Abigail Gomez, was recently elected to the GSD executive committee.

GBC asked the Government about the relevance of Mr Gomez's wife, who is not a member of the legal team.

In response, Number Six says GBC and the Opposition have in the past made references to the wife of the Chief Minister, which it says makes "spousal relationships relevant to assessments of the actions of relevant parties".

Charles Gomez stresses what he means by 'establishment'

For his part, Charles Gomez has clarified that when he said establishment he was referring to the Chief Minister, the Attorney General, the then interim Governor, the Governor, the Police Federation and the Government.

Former Police Commissioner calls for an independent investigation by Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Ian McGrail's lawyer claims the possibility that potential witnesses were receiving incentives to provide evidence against his client has been known to the RGP since early 2021. Charles Gomez says Mr McGrail came to know about this at that time from the current Commissioner of Police, Mr Ullger himself.

Mr McGrail, he says, accepts Sir Peter Openshaw’s ruling but is dismayed that the Inquiry has had to be adjourned to an unknown date in the future.

Ian McGrail's legal team says that in the recent unsuccessful prosecution and trial of Mr McGrail it came to light that several RGP officers had offered to provide potentially negative evidence relating to Mr McGrail to the Inquiry; It adds the number estimated by a former Gibraltar Police Federation Secretary in evidence was around 14 individuals.

It points out that in an interview to the Gibraltar Chronicle in July Police Commissioner Richard Ullger confirmed 11 officers had “left the force” under “whistleblower protections”.

Mr McGrail's lawyer, Charles Gomez says the Employment Act does not permit, still less require, alternative jobs to be offered to potential whistleblowers.

Read more.

Former Police Commissioner calls for an independent investigation by FCDO

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