Sir Geoffrey has been feeling the wrath of the British press, which has sought to smear his character because he has been defending the Virgin Islands in the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) called by controversial Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert.
The British press, in particular, reported that Sir Geoffrey has been making lots of money ‘on the side’, although legally, and has been neglecting his constituents. Additionally, the British press has suggested that Sir Geoffrey broke parliamentary rules.
According to a statement from Sir Geoffrey on November 10, 2021, he has practised as a Queen’s Counsel in the courts since well before his election in 2005 and that he is a leading barrister in England and makes no secret of his professional activities.
The statement said Sir Geoffrey was asked to advise the Attorney General and the elected Government of the VI, a British Overseas Territory, in a public inquiry into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place in recent years in the Virgin Islands and to carry out a review of its systems of government in preparation for that Inquiry.
Prior to accepting the role, the statement continued, Sir Geoffrey sought and obtained the approval of the Office of the Attorney General of England and Wales that there would be no conflict of interest with his former role as Attorney General.”
“This is not to ‘defend’ a tax haven or, as has been inaccurately reported, to defend any wrongdoing but to assist the public inquiry in getting to the truth. No evidence of tax evasion or personal corruption has been adduced before the Inquiry and if it had been, that person would have been required to seek their own representation,” the statement clarified.
UK news agencies, including ITV News, also sought to get public feedback from Britons and appeared to paint the picture that Sir Geoffrey was not properly representing his constituents.
The statement; however, pointed out that Sir Geoffrey regularly works 70-hour weeks and always ensures that his casework on behalf of his constituents is given primary importance and fully carried out.
“Throughout this period, he continued to have online meetings with organisations, businesses and individuals within the constituency and it made no difference where he was for that purpose since it was not practicable or desirable at that time to meet face to face.”
The statement asserted that Sir Geoffrey’s view is that it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon whether or not they vote for someone who is a senior and distinguished professional in his field and who still practices that profession.
“That has been the consistent view of the local Conservative Association and although at every election his political opponents have sought to make a prominent issue of his professional practice, it has so far been the consistent view of the voters of Torridge and West Devon. Sir Geoffrey is very content to abide by their decision.”
And, according to The Sun and The Guardian on November 10, 2021, Sir Geoffrey allegedly took advantage of lockdown rules to vote remotely as a parliamentarian so he could stay in the VI.
“As to the use of the proxy, prior to his visit to the BVI, he consulted the Chief Whip specifically on this issue and was advised that it was appropriate,” the statement rebutted.
As for the allegation that he breached the parliamentary code of conduct on one occasion, September 14, 2021, by being in his office while participating in an online hearing in the public inquiry and voting in the House of Commons, the statement said Sir Geoffrey understands that the matter has been referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner and he will fully cooperate with her investigation.
“He does not believe that he breached the rules but will of course accept the judgment of the Parliamentary Commissioner or of the Committee on the matter.”
Meanwhile, Sir Geoffrey, while representing the VI Government during the CoI, appeared to argue that the CoI was only called because Mr Jaspert was at loggerheads with Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1).
He also accused Governors of sitting in Cabinet over the years and doing nothing to tackle problems that have now been highlighted by the CoI.
Additionally, Sir Geoffrey appeared to argue that the Auditor General was also being unlawfully pressured to prepare reports for the CoI.
He is set to cross-examine Governor John J. Rankin, who has said he will need legal representation when facing Sir Geoffrey.