CONCERNS: Many questions remain unanswered over Judge Jack axing

THE non-renewal of Judge Jack’s contract has left many more questions than answers. While Mr Jack himself has expressed confusion and anger for his axing, here are five key points that still need addressing.

Why has Minister for Justice Neil Costa not yet spoken?

IT is surprising that the government’s Ministry for Justice boss has yet to speak out on a matter of such importance. Everyone – from the GSD to Chief Justice Dudley has given an opinion or asked for clarification.. Why not Neil Costa?
Costa’s silence is causing eyebrows to be raised, not least among members of Gibraltar’s legal world. Questions are being asked about both the reasons for Jack being let go and the ramifications for Gibraltar’s legal system. Costa’s silence is deafening.

Why did Costa not mention the non-renewal of Jack’s contract in June’s Budget speech?

JACK revealed on GBC that he was informed of his departure in a letter from the government’s Chief Secretary on June 21. Six days later, however, Costa failed to mention that the number of puisne judges was being cut by a third in his Budget speech.
How could a matter of such importance not be a key part of a speech, while trivial matters, such as court open days for schoolchildren and wifi being introduced in courtrooms was deemed relevant to mention?
Furthermore, it could be argued that not mentioning the axing of Jack’s position means parliament was not candidly informed.

Was the Chief Justice consulted?

TWO weeks ago, the Olive Press submitted a list of questions to Chief Justice Anthony Dudley over the Jack affair.
Two days later, he submitted his unprecedented public statement. In it, he said he will ‘seek to persuade’ the government to reconsider its decision to get rid of a fourth judge.
But why wasn’t he consulted in the first place? And if he was, why weren’t his views considered important?
The Judicial Service Act gives the Chief Justice ‘overall responsibility… for representing the views of the judiciary of Gibraltar to Parliament, to the Minister and to the Government generally.’
Jack’s non-renewal would therefore suggest the Chief Justice was not listened to, was not consulted or perhaps HE TOO was in favour of Jack being axed?

Is a £130,000 saving the real reason?

IN the Chief Secretary’s letter, Jack was informed that ‘uncertainties ahead’ and this was the reason for his contract non-renewal.
However, it is understood that Jack’s salary was £130,000 and given the immense experience and knowledge he brought to the rock – not to mention his strong work ethic – this seems good value for money.
Moreover, the argument seems flimsy, after Chief Minister Fabian Picardo reported in his Budget speech that ‘in post-Brexit Gibraltar we are going to declare a surplus which will rank as the highest on record to date’. (It was £75.8 million).
With the £300 million loan secured by mortgaging social housing, it seems a strange time to cite finances as the reason for a recruitment freeze, and particularly over such a key post.

How will this affect Gibraltar’s ability to administer justice and recruit leading judicial brains in the future?

IN his GBC interview, Jack revealed he had quit his barrister practice in London to take up the position at Gibraltar’s Supreme Court.
Under the judiciary code of conduct, he is now unable to work anywhere in the legal world for a year. He added it would be ‘difficult’ to resume working as a barrister after a four-year period away.
Given these problems Jack now faces and the fact that such a highly regarded legal mind has been let go, it is not unreasonable to assume that candidates of a similar ilk will think twice about taking a role as a Gibraltar judge in future?