Archive for December 16th, 2009

It’s high noon in January for new governor

| 16/12/2009 | 7 Comments

Cayman Islands news, Grand Cayman local news(CNS): The government has now confirmed that Cayman’s new governor, Duncan Taylor, will be arriving on island in a month’s time. A short release from the Governor’s Office said that after consultation with the premier, the new UK representative will arrive in the Cayman Islands at noon Friday, 15 January, to take up his appointment. Following the recent controversies in Cayman regarding the previous governor’s decisions regarding Operation Tempura, as well as the dispute with the UK over the conditions of further government borrowing to balance the budget among other issues, McKeeva Bush issued a warning to Taylor when he was sworn in as premier not to micro manage the jurisdiction.

Taylor will be accompanied by his wife, Marie-Beatrice, on his official arrival day and a schedule of events for the swearing-in ceremony will be issued shortly, the Governor’s Office stated. Taylor comes to Cayman from Barbados, where he completed a four-year tour of duty as BritishHigh Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Earlier this year, the in-coming governor told the Caribbean media that he believed that Britain has a right to step in wherever there are perceived problems in its territories. Comparing Cayman to the situation in Turks and Caicos, where the UK has taken over the government, Taylor stated that he didn’t think the situation would happen in the Cayman Islands but made it clear the UK had the constitutional power if necessary.

“I hope it won’t come to that in the Cayman Islands and I would be very surprised if it did but the nature of the relationship with the British Overseas Territories is that they are still British Overseas Territories and that is the constitutional position,” he said.

The current situation between the UK and the Cayman Islands remains strained, with the UK not particularly happy about the circumstances surrounding the reviews of the country’s revenue bases and the civil service, which were conditions of the recent permission granted to the CIG to borrow more cash to operate government this fiscal year.

As yet, little news has been released about the talks between the UK’s FCO minister Chris Bryant and Bush, which took place last week during the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council in London.

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Consumers warned not to buy meat without a stamp

| 16/12/2009 | 13 Comments

(CNS): To protect the meat-eating public from possible food poisoning, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and the Department of Environmental Health (DEH)  will be conducting inspections of local slaughter houses, livestock and butchers to maintain food safety standards. Before any animals are slaughtered livestock must be inspected by DoA staff to ensure they are healthy and DEH officials must inspect carcasses to determine whether they are safe for human consumption. “The public is reminded that local meat is only deemed fit when carcasses bear the ’DEH inspected and passed’ stamp," the DEH said.  

Traditional Christmas dishes often include fresh local meat and to satisfy the seasonal demand, butchers are already slaughtering more livestock, the two departments said on Wednesday.

Selling carcasses, whether whole or in part, that have not been DEH inspected and approved is against the Public Health Law (2002 Revision). DEH officials said consumers should be vigilant. “For your own safety and for the health of those who may consume your meals, do not purchase any locally-slaughtered meat that lacks the DEH stamp," said Senior Food Safety Officer Gideon Simms.  “If at any time you observe anyone selling locally slaughtered meat without the stamp, immediately report the matter to the DEH.”

DOA staff can be contacted on 947-3090 to make arrangements for ante-mortem inspections and butchers should call the DEH on 949-6696 at least 48 hours ahead of the proposed slaughter time to arrange post-mortem meat inspections. People can call either number for more information.

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Footballers team up with Blue Iguana

| 16/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS):  A UK football club has officially sponsored one of the Cayman Islands Blue Iguanas.  Portsmouth Football Club is known both as “The Blues” and “Pompey”, and in honour of their new alliance, the five-foot female blue has been renamed "Pompey". The sponsorship came about following a recent visit to Cayman by the club’s director of operations, Lucius Peart, who was completely taken by her story. Pompey was rescued from the roadside and found to be one of only a handfull of Blue Iguana’s on Grand Cayman that had survived in the wild and is now adding her genes to boost the limited pool at the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.   

To celebrate the partnership of one of the most imperilled creatures on the planet and Portsmouth Football Club, Shane Aquârt, the man behind Dready art and whose work was admired by Peart, was commissioned by the club to design a new range of merchandising, which will be available to fans in the UK

The naming of Pompey the Blue Iguana took place in Portsmouth at a Caribbean-themed Children’s Christmas Party held for local youngsters by the club on Monday, 7 December, at Fratton Park. First team players including Linvoy Primus, who announced his retirement at the event, and Aaron Mokoena, who co-hosted the party and joinedin the games with 60 children from PFC’s Study Centre, all wearing Dready-Portsmouth T-shirts. Aquârt represented the Cayman Islands at the Children’s Christmas Party, along with the Department of Tourism, who co-funded the event. 

Don McDougall, DoT’s Regional Manager in Europe, explained how the relationship came about: “Shane’s work was admired by PFC’s head of operations, Lucius Peart, on his last visit to Cayman, and he hit on the idea of using it as a really unusual and striking way of appealing to the Blue Army, which has a very cross cultural and cosmopolitan fan base. As always, DoT is delighted to promote Cayman’s local talent internationally and we are in the early stages of discussion around some very exciting opportunities that Dreadyworld’s association with PFC can offer the Cayman Islands in the UK market,” he said.

Pompey’s story defies all odds, being one of the only Blue Iguanas to have been found in the wild for many years. Origins unknown, she was rescued from certain death on a roadside in East End and was taken into care by the breeding programme. As “Pompey” she will be a popular attraction for anyone visiting the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

In Portsmouth, she will now form the basis of an education programme for school children, part of a cross cultural swap between the Cayman Islands and PFC, which is located on the UK’s only island city. It is built on Portsea Island, the seventh most densely populated island in the world.

As DoT embarks on a new relationship with the UK club, the Department of Tourism is asking all “Pompey” fans based in the Cayman Islands to make themselves known. Don McDougall says, “If you are a Pompey fan, please email pr@caymanislands.ky and please help us by spreading the word to friends and relatives whom you also know to be Pompey fans.”

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Earthquakes Can Happen

| 16/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Monday, 14 December, marked the five anniversary of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred 20 miles South of George Town in 2004. A release from Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) says that, up until that event, many people were not even aware that the Cayman Islands are vulnerable to the earthquake hazard, however Cayman is located close to a fault boundary and earthquakes do occur. To mark the anniversary, HMCI has been raising the awareness in the schools and many civil servants will be taking part in an earthquake drill at the Glass House. HMCI believes it is beneficial to inform the public about the potential threat, and provide strategies for minimizing the risk to life and property associated with this hazard.

The Cayman Islands is located near to the southern boundary of the North American tectonic plate and below us is the Caribbean plate. The North American Plate is moving westward with respect to the adjacent Caribbean plate at a rate of motion of 0.24 to 0.43 inches per year. This may sound like a small amount, but tremendous force and friction builds up when these plates grind past one another, and with no warning the friction can suddenly release, resulting in an earthquake.

Since 1990 there have been four earthquakes that were magnitude six or more in the general area of the Cayman Islands. Arecent vulnerability analysis conducted by Natural Disasters Assessment Consulting Group (published in June, 2009) for Grand Cayman shows that the estimated return period of a destructive earthquake ranging in magnitude from 7.2 to 7.5 on the Richter scale is 180 to 500 years, so while the possibility of a damaging earthquake occurring in Cayman in anyone year is small, there is still a risk and the public should prepare for the possibility.

The Cayman Islands has the ability to measure (regional) earthquake activity and we also receive information about earthquakes from the network of seismographs located in countries around the world, for example when a significant earthquake occurred off the Island of Roatan earlier in the year, the event was detected at the Frank Sound ‘seismograph.’ Additional local seismographs are due to become operational in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

So what can you do to make yourself safer from this threat? Earthquakes are not like hurricanes where you can see them on satellite images and you can anticipate the effects, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. During the sensitization sessions in the schools, Deputy Director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, Mr. Omar Afflick demonstrates the response currently recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which advocates the ‘duck, cover and hold’ procedure.

“Basically when you feel shaking, stay calm, move away from glass windows and duck under a heavy piece of furniture such as a desk or table. If there is nothing available for you to duck under you should cover your head with your arms. Do not run for the door and head outside, but if you are outdoors already you should move to an area which is open, where there are no trees, buildings or light poles that can potentially fall on you. If you are in a car pull over to the side of the road.” Mr. Afflick added that “once the tremors stop, you should head outside to an open area and if the earthquake was a strong event it is highly recommended that you have an expert check the structural integrity of your building before going back inside. Sometimes earthquakes can be associated with broken gas lines and fires have been known to occur so clearly you want to be aware of your surrounding, stay away from downed power lines and if you smell gas move away from the area.”

Omar Afflick highly recommends that people reduce the hazards in their own homes by ensuring that heavy objects, like bookcases, that can fall are anchored to the wall with screws. “Check that your televisions sets are secure as well. We have information on our website that will help you identify potential hazards so you can reduce the risks”

If you are interested in learning more about how you can construct or retrofit your building so it is more resilient to an earthquake there is information available on the website caymanprepared.gov.ky; there are also ‘hazard hunts’ that are fun activities for children and there are earthquake brochures that are available and can be picked up from the Hazard Management Office in the Corporate Centre on Hospital Road.
 

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Spiked drink turns evening out into nightmare

| 16/12/2009 | 56 Comments

Cayman Islands news, date rape drug(CNS): A 34-year-old woman says a beer she ordered at a local bar was spiked with a powerful drug that caused total loss of control and blackout. Now she wants to warn other women of the dangers of date rape drugs and how easily they can find their way into drinks. “I don’t remember any suspicious activity. I don’t remember feeling watched or anything,” she said. Later, when she read up on date rape drugs, she thought, “That’s exactly how I felt.” It was odourless and tasteless; the only thing she was aware of was the impact it had on her body. The victim said she was lucky she had friends to take care of her, but feels frightened when she thinks about the ‘what ifs’.

A Grand Cayman resident who works in the financial services industry, the victim, who wants to remain anonymous, said that last Friday night she was at a bar on Seven Mile Beach with friends where she was meeting her husband, who had first gone to a Christmas party. They ordered a second round of drinks and she got a bottle of beer, which was delivered to the table opened. She said she did not know everyone in her group well, but that there was no chance to spike her drink after it was brought to the table by the bar staff.

“By the second sip, I felt something go terribly wrong,” she said. Her body would not respond, she wanted to talk but the words would not come out – afterwards she was told by friends that she was talking gibberish – but this sensation of being cognizant of what was going on but feeling out of control lasted only for a few minutes. Then she blacked out altogether and remembers nothing until she woke up next morning.

The friends with her that night said it was very obvious something was wrong; she was incoherent and uncomprehending and, as one of them put it, “in a pathetic state”. One of them took her home, where she said she slept for twelve straight hours. When she woke up, she still felt that something was inside her system and had flashbacks of that sip of beer when she suddenly felt the effects of the drug.

The next day she went back to the bar and told the manager on duty about what had happened to her. “The manager was quite defensive, not helpful at all. She accused me of being a heavy drinker. I don’t think she believed me at all.” The victim also said that on the night it happened, no staff member offered to help or asked if she was alright. “They probably thought I was very drunk,” she said.

On Tuesday she reported it to the police because, she said, she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, but was a little disappointed by the reaction. “It was a quick conversation, not asking me very in depth details, which I was a bit shocked about,” she said, adding that she wants to warn other women about the dangers of spiked drinks. “On Saturday night I was thinking, is this happening again to someone else?”

A police spokesperson said, “We can confirm that this incident was reported to us for information and that we are not aware of any similar incidents in the area. However, we would urge people to be vigilant and always ensure that others do not have the opportunity to tamper with their drinks. Anyone who suspects they have had their drinks tampered with should contact the police immediately.”

According to the Drink Detective website, there are three major groups of drug rape drugs: GHB, Ketamine and Benzodiazepines, which include Rohypnol (roofie) and valium.

All the drugs act as an anaesthetic that reduce a person’s ability to resist rape or robbery and often causes the victim to cooperate with the criminal. After a few hours, the victim will fall asleep and wake up with little or no memory of what happened when she or he was under the influence of the drug. In addition, these drugs stay in the system for a relatively short time (as little as 12 hours for GHB) so that even if a victim wants to go to the police and press charges, the evidence will have disappeared.

The Drink Detective says this makes it very difficult to prosecute drug-rape crimes. There is no violence, the victim cannot remember what happened and the evidence of the crime has left the victim’s system before she even realises that a crime has been committed. Thus, the only effective way to deal with drug rape and other drink-spiking crimes is to avoid getting drugged in the first place.

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West Bay residents warned of rise in local thefts

| 16/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Officers from the West Bay police station are urging residents in the area to be extra vigilant during the holiday season and to take precautions against becoming victims of theft. In the past two weeks there has been a rise in the number of thefts reported to the Royal Cayman Islands Police in the West Bay area. Police said that ten thefts were reported – an increase of two on the previous two weeks and Items stolen include cash, cell phones, and even car tyres. (Police are advising people not to leave their belongings unattended on the beach)

Area Commander, Chief Inspector Angelique Howell, while stressing that the rise was minimal urged people not to become complacent. “The fact is that many thefts are opportunistic and could easily be avoided if people just take a few extra minutes to make sure their valuables are locked away and their vehicles and homes are secured.”

Howell advised people not leave handbags or other property on the beach when they go swimming; to lock vehicles even when close by; to lock all windows and doors when leaving home and ensure they are equipped with proper locks and bolts; to have sufficient lighting around homes; and finally, to be aware of your surroundings when driving or walking onto your property.

Howell said if residents see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary they should contact the police, and if they become victims of crime such as theft or burglary, Howell said they should not touch anything and contact the police immediately. This will allow the police to preserve any evidence left at the scene. People should also call the police immediately if they happen upon an intruder in their home. In that situation people are advised not to disturb the intruder but to leave their home and call 911 right away.

“Christmas is a time for celebration and we hope everyone has a great time during the festivities. All we ask is that residents remember that thieves don’t take time off at Christmas – they will still be out there looking for opportunities. So don’t give them a chance -f- ollow the crime prevention tips and make it a lean Christmas for would-be thieves in West Bay,” Howell added.

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Myles denies going to farm

| 16/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The witness that Randy Martin’s defence lawyers claim had the opportunity and motive to murder Sabrina Schirn denied seeing her on the day she was killed or going to the prison farm in East End when he gave evidence in Martin’s trial on Tuesday. Called to the court by the judge in order for the defence to question him over threats he had made to Schirn before shortly before she was found dead and the statements he gave to the police during the enquiry, Lance Myles said the threats were aimed at Schirn’s boyfriend not her. Myles said that on the morning Schirn was killed he was at home with his girlfriend until 11:30 before leaving with her to go to West Bay.

Myles told the court, which had been cleared of Schirn’s family by the judge, that he did not know that Schirn and his uncle, the defendant Randy Martin, were in communication and said he had nothing to do with any drugs that were being taken to the prison farm. He told David Evans QC that he could not remember what the calls on his mobile telephone between himself, Martin and then Schirn were about in the days before she was killed but said they could be about cigarettes. He testified that the only time he had visited Martin at the prison was to carry shoes his mother had sent and cigarettes.   

Although Myles reluctantly conceded that his relationship with Schirn, which he described as “just sex”, was a violent and volatile one, he denied threatening her at her work place and said it was her boyfriend, Patrick McField, that was the person who was violent and told Evans to check the hospital records. Myles also stated that it was McField who had shown up with the wrench a few days before her murder, the day Myles says he went to talk with Schirn at Blockbusters to tell her to leave him alone. Presented with one of his payslips that appeared to have romantic messages on it from him to Schirn, Myles denied that the notes had anything to do with him.

He said the dispute between him and Sabrina was over damage to her car, which she accused Myles of committing but he had not. When the threatening message which he had left on Schirn’s voicemail a week or so before her murder was played to him in the court, he said that if the lawyer listened properly he would hear it was a threat to McField and not Schirn.

He also denied asking his girlfriend, LeeAnne Ebanks, who had given conflicting testimony to the police about their whereabouts on the day of Schirn’s killing, to lie for him or that he knew anything about her also leaving threatening messages for Schirn. Asked about why he and his girlfriend were talking on their cell phones if they were together on the morning of Schirn’s death, he said it was probably because he was outside the house, perhaps in the laundry, and she may have called him. He also stated that they had not really discussed the statements that they had given to the police.

He said he did not help search for Schirn when she was missing as he had no reason to, nor did he have any reason to call her. He also said that he had become angry with Schirn’s brothers when they visited him after she had gone missing because he was sick of people accusing him in his own yard of things he didn’t do.

Myles told the court hehad never been to the prison farm and knew nothing about what went on there and he did not go there on 11 March.

Myles was then followed in the witness stand by his girlfriend at the time, LeeAnne Ebanks, who told the court that she had lied to the police in her statement because she was afraid for herself when Schirn had been found dead. Later in her evidence, however, she said that she was terrified for her life and still was and that she was under pressure from Myles to lie. She said that when she had discovered that Myles was charged with firearm offences and attempted murder she was desperately afraid.

Ebanks admitted leaving a threatening message on Schirn’s phone the night before she died because of the pressure from Myles about threats Schirn had made to damage his car. Ebanks said Myles was becoming aggravated with her and had provoked her into leaving the message.

Admitting that she had lied to the police about being with Myles all day on the 11 March as she was not with him in the evening, Ebanks told the court that she was being honest when she said that they were together in the morning and gave the same account as Myles –  that they were at his home until around 11:30am before heading to West Bay.  She also told the court that the phone calls between her and Myles on themorning in question were because Myles was in the laundry room away from the house.

The trial of Martin is now in its fourth week and with only two more crown witnesses to come, the defence is expected to begin its case on Thursday.

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Cayman will survive, says former chair of CIMA

| 16/12/2009 | 5 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Islands financial services news(CNS):  Despite all the ups and downs for the world of offshore finance recently, not to mention the Cayman Islands own financial troubles, the jurisdiction is set to survive, says Tim Ridley, the former chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority and offshore expert. Speaking at the International Tax Planning Association conference at the Ritz Carlton last week, Ridley said he believed there will continue to be a place for high quality, innovative and adaptive offshore financial centres (OFC’s) and their service providers.

“The pendulum is still swinging against OFC’s for the moment, but unless the world goes back to the dark economic ages, the rhetoric, even from the French and Germans, will reduce and some semblance of balance will return,” Ridley predicted.

Presenting to an audience working in businesses associated with wealth management and tax planning, the former CIMA chair painted a relatively positive future for the Cayman Islands given the recent turmoil.

He said the world is full of global businesses and families, and their number and wealth would increase over time.

“Increased rates of taxation will make proper tax and estate planning for wealthy families even more important and also lead to greater demand for tax advantaged and good places to live where there is access to quality professional services and advice,” Ridley added.

“Global economic competition inevitably means tax and regulatory competition. No one has yet created the perfect tax or regulatory regime, so competing regimes, within broad agreed norms, are perfectly proper, just as there are many ways to make a safe automobile. Individuals and corporations are still entitled legally to maximise their wealth. Indeed, corporations have an obligation to their shareholders to do so.”

Legitimate tax and regulatory planning, he said, would always have a place. “OFCs with high standards of sensible regulation, appropriate transparency, cross border assistance arrangements and good infrastructure and providing quality value-added service have a valuable and vital role to play in this scenario,” he told delegates.

Examining the competition for offshore business, Ridley noted that the barriers to entry for new OFCs were increasing. “The cost of developing the infrastructure and meeting international standards is significant and success cannot be achieved overnight or guaranteed. There are some who are doing it nevertheless, such as Dubai and more recently Ghana and Botswana,” he observed. “Whether they will succeed for the longer term is still an open question. There are probably now too many OFCs. Competition is increasingly fierce, and jurisdictions and structures are increasingly fungible.”

Admitting to being a supporter of the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest, he noted that the survivors will be those who meet international standards, have an established infrastructure and track record, tax efficiency, professional expertise and support services, a solid and diverse base of business, and the ability quickly to adapt and innovate in the ever changing global environment and to add real value to international transactions and capital flows in an efficient and cost effective way.

“Sitting and saying ‘we are here, the business will come, just show me where I sign’ will not cut it,” Ridley said. “I believe Cayman meets the tests for being a survivor and need not suffer death by a thousand cuts.”

However, he warned that to thrive as a financial services centre Cayman must learn better from history and from its mistakes and work more effectively to be fully accepted as a legitimate participant in the global financial world and to continue to be one of the preferred OFCs for both businesses and individuals.

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Legal aid lawyers excluded

| 16/12/2009 | 23 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Islands legal news(CNS): The committee which has been established to explore the government’s proposed changes to the way legal aid is managed has already caused controversy as none of the lawyers currently undertaking legal aid work or anyone from the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has been invited to take part. A release from Government Information Services (GIS) on behalf of the legal drafter’s office confirmed on Tuesday that Elio Solomon, Steve McField (left), Valdis Foldats and Delene Cacho from the courts, along with Steve Moore from the Governor’s office will form the committee with Cheryl Nesblit from legal drafting as chair.

The Law Society wrote to the governor on 7 December pointing out possible conflicts of interest with members of the committee and suggested that Lloyd Sampson, whose firm conducts considerable legal aid work, and Sarah Collins, a lawyer and member of the Human Rights Committee, be included. However, the committee has already started its work and neither attorney has been invited to join.

The issue of Steve McField, who stands to benefit from the committee’s findings, being the only practicing lawyer on the review committee has raised a number of questions about the committee’s objectivity.  The Law Society has also expressed concern that none of the professional legal bodies in the Cayman Islands were consulted on the composition of the review team.

According to government, it appointed the Legal Aid Review Committee to look at the proposals put forwardby McField and Theresa Pitcairn to establish an independent legal services office. The GIS release stated that it held its first meeting on Monday, 14 December, and is due to meet again tomorrow, Wednesday 16 December.  The committee has reportedly been asked to provide a streamlined eligibility test for legal aid and to report on the advantages or disadvantages between the proposed legal services office and the current judicial administered system and is expected to finalize its report by 1 February 2010. 

The proposals for the legal aid office were adopted by Premier McKeeva Bush during the Finance Committee stage of the budget debate after a motion submitted by Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour. Bush then took over from his back bench MLA and announced that he would be accepting the motion and reducing the chief justice’s allocation for the 2009/10 budget and placing the funds under a new line item in his ministry for the establishment of the independent legal aid office, as suggested by McField and Pitcairn.

During the discussion that ensued, it became apparent that this decision was made without consultation with the chief justice or the attorney general. Moreover, the announcement was made very late in the evening on Friday, 12 October, in the Legislative Assembly as the business of Finance Committee was drawing to a close on the government’s 2009/10 budget and not as part of a proposed bill or debate in the normal course of legislative business.

Considerable controversy then followed the announced change. Concerns were raised publicly by the Law Society, the Criminal Defence Bar Association and the Human Rights Committee, as well as more quietly by the chief justice. The former governor, Stuart Jack, then stepped in before his departure and announced that a review would take place before any changes were made to the way legal aid was managed.

In a statement on 11 November, the Governor’s Office said an effective legal aid system was fundamental to the administration of justice and adequate legal representation would be required by the Bill of Rights. It was stated that the system needed to be administered as cost-effectively as possible, and while the government is entitled to consider how this can be achieved, the human rights requirements had to be met. The governor said that it was therefore important to consult stakeholders.

However, the HR Committee is not represented, and although the governor suggested that the committee should include members of the legal profession, as echoed by the Law Society, the spirit intended was to go beyond the one lawyer that had proposed the changes to the legal aid in the first place and to include the wider profession, in particular those working under the current legal aid systems.

CNS has contacted Acting Governor Donovan Ebanks to ask if he has concerns about the possible conflict of interest on the committee and the lack of representation from any of the legal defenders who have experience  working under the present legal aid system, and is awaiting a response.

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