THE former Commissioner of Royal Gibraltar Police claims he was forced from his job amid ‘improper pressure at the highest level of government’ as a much anticipated public inquiry gets underway.

Ian McGrail announced he was retiring as Commissioner of Police in June 2020 after serving just two years of a four-year term without revealing his reasons behind the move at the time.

The decision to retire early after 36 years with the RGP, provoked fierce speculation and questions in parliament with McGrail himself calling for the matter to be properly investigated, and an inquiry was set up at the request of Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in February.

Preliminary hearings last week under retired High Court judge Sir Peter Openshaw who flew over from London to chair the public inquiry into the matter.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, the QC representing McGrail, laid out her client’s central argument.

“His core allegations are that he was put under inappropriate pressure in respect of the conduct of a criminal investigation, and that he was subsequently put under pressure by the same individuals to request early retirement against his will, pressure to which he ultimately succumbed,” she told the opening session at the Garrison Library, last Wednesday (June 22).

Gallagher insisted that ‘the probity of Gibraltar’s institutions is at issue in this inquiry’ and called for the judicial investigation to be “full, fair and fearless”.

However, Sir Peter Caruana, QC, who is representing the government in the inquiry, countered: “The Government, the then Governor, Mr (Nick) Pyle, the Chief Minister, Mr Picardo, and the Attorney General, Mr (Michael) Llamas, deny that Mr McGrail was at any time or by any of them put under improper or any pressure in the conduct of his job or the conduct of any criminal investigation.”

He argued that McGrail ‘chose to retire because he knew that, having lost the confidence of the Governor and the Chief Minister, his position had become untenable’.

Outlining the scope of the inquiry, Openshaw said: “Although several of the key participants in these events hold or held positions within the Government of Gibraltar, I make clear that the inquiry will be conducted quite independently from the Government.”

“My findings will be made public. They will not be and are not subject to approval by the Government.”

The inquiry will hear evidence from four core parties; McGrail, Picardo, Pyle and Joseph Britto, the chairman of the Gibraltar Police Authority (GPA).

A general appeal has also been issued to the public for anyone who feels they have evidence that may be of use to come forward.

Openshaw will have to decide what steps the inquiry would take to offer protective measures to potential witnesses, including the possibility of providing evidence anonymously.

Also discussed was whether steps would be made to provide a live feed of the proceedings.

The next session, which will also tackle procedural matters has been scheduled for September.

The main hearing of the inquiry is not expected to take place until March 2023.

A dedicated website has been set up to keep the public informed about the progress of the Inquiry.

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