Mac sees red on legal aid

| 05/03/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman legal aid(CNS): As a new report examining how legal aid is managed and funded was handed to the ministry of finance on Monday in the county’s parliament, the premier made it quite clear that he still objected to the principle of government paying to defend what he believed were criminals. In the debate regarding the introduction of the Criminal Evidence Anonymity bill. Opposition MLA and lawyer, Alden McLaughlin, pointed out that the introduction of the new powers for the police to present anonymous evidence meant it was more important than ever that those accused of a serious offence were “adequately and competently” represented.

The legal aid report, which was undertaken by a committee led by Cheryl Neblett, has not yet been made public but McKeeva Bush has said that there is no money to fund legal aid in the way it is currently being financed and wants to change the system. In October he removed a considerable part of the $1.8 million allocated to the chief justice for the funding of representation, saying government planned to establish a public defenders office managed by Theresa Pitcairn and Steve McField, who would manage a smaller legal aid budget and do more with it.

However, the move, which came late at night in the Legislative Assembly during a Finance Committee meeting as the budget was about to be voted, caused considerable controversy and objections from the legal community and in particular the chief justice. The previous governor then stepped in and asked government to undertake a review before removing the financing of this year’s legal aid budget.

The committee included two representatives from the judicial services department, UDP back bencher Ellio Solomon and local attorney Steve McField, with Neblett as chair, and their report was submitted to the ministry on Monday. However, prior to receiving thereport, Bush said  that he would change how legal aid is managed and cut the funding.

The introduction of the subject by McLaughlin during the anonymity bill debate resulted in an angry response from the premier to the comments made by the George Town representative. He criticised his eloquent speeches about the rights of criminals when there was no money to spend because of the spending of the administration in which the George Town member had served. Referring to the country’s high crime rate, Bush said he was not going to mollycoddle criminals because of human rights.

MLA and lawyer Alden McLaughlin pointed out that, with the introduction of the new powers for the police to present anonymous evidence, it was even more important that anyone accused of a serious offence was adequately represented. This meant that government had to ensure legal aid was properly funded. He said that without adequate representation, people could be convicted on anonymous evidence which was not tested, making those convictions unsafe.   

However, the premier saw red and he suggested the free representation of criminals was causing the rising crime problem and made it very clear that he resented government paying to represent those “who shot up children and burned women”.

Bush made it clear that he was uncomfortable with spending public money to defend criminals and gave little credence to the principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. He loudly declared his disgust and criticised the opposition member for his speeches about rights at a time when there was no money.

“Government has to find the money for legal aid and when there is no money what do we do, close the schools, stop the money for veterans?” he asked. “When you go to court you have to have someone talk for you, yes, but you should not go to court in the first place. You should not shoot people or burn people up.”

He said that by voting millions of dollars for legal aid to help them, the politicians had encouraged criminals. He told the opposition benches that they should have done something about the legal aid funding problem when they had the chance when they were in office. Bush added that he was sick of “eloquent speeches about the rights of people, but what about their responsibilities?”

Category: Headline News

Comments (53)

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  1. anonymous says:

    Oh McKeeva…..Perhaps you should think before opening your mouth.  What ever happened to the presumption of Innocence before proven guilty?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence  

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Premier cannot always be credited with tact but he is absolutely right  and no one else is trying to address this critical matter. What have all the whining lawyers been doing about it over the years? I’m not aware of much pro bono assistance from them!!

    Mac is right, we cannot be paying to defend local or foreign sleaze bags who choose to live the criminal lifestyle. If the Crown is successful, they will be convicted and incarcerated, that is already too much expense!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe the answer is that if convicted then all personal and business property is confiscated to pay for the legal aid. However until they are convicted they are presumed innocent even though everyone thinks they know they as sleaze bags.

  3. Mac #1 fan says:

    I think mr Bush has a strong point there!!! u go mac:)

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is yet another example of why the leader of a country should at least have a high school diploma.

  5. durrrr says:

    Sorry, Mac, but you got this one wrong… the police accusing someone of something, does not make them a criminal. I hope you eventually come to your senses and realise this is another re-naming Pirates Week type error, before you paint yourself into a corner.

     

    I do think there should be changes to the legal aid rules though… make parents responsible for any dependants who live at home for starters. If you’re an adult, but can’t be bothered working / standing on your own two feet, and you’ve got parents who are happy to support you on a day to day basis, the parents should have to submit a statement of means, as well as the accused.

     

    Also, why not make it a rule that anyone found guilty has to re-pay the legal aid fund? Might reduce a few of these frivoulous appeals, and get some more early guilty pleas if the ones that actually are guilty realise that they will ultimately have to pay for it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Premier – there are many of us out there that share your thoughts.  These rodents take it upon themselves to get into trouble and then are more than happy to request QC’s from overseas to represent them, all at our expense. Unfortunately, the death penalty is no longer an available option to us (thanks to the UK) however, Singapore has been very successful with their public whippings when one is found guilty of a crime.  Lash the buggers…a deterent for any criminal that will make them think twice!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree that while, legal representation should be given to the accused until proven guilty, this definately should  not be be at he expense of the general public in this country with no direct taxation.

    The proposed legal aid cell would serve the purpose of representation to the accused. Also it will help the young Caymanian lawyers gain further exposure and experience.

    It is easy for the lawyers from abroad, who were lucky enough to come and work on this island, make big money using this island as a base and not giving anything back to Cayman like legal aid. Today they can talk all they want, but they need to set  an example before making these high power human right speeches etc.

    If the legal aid cell is what Cayman could afford in these financially hard times,  that is probably what the average person who make up the majority in these islands could absorb. We are already living pay check to pay check, we definately cannot take any  more financial suffering if the cost of living / surviving goes up.

    In these hard times, my request to the opposition is to stop trying to make political capital, but join with all Caymanians in getting our country fiancially sustainable again. We donot need any more divisions amongst us as we have to to somehow survive this crisis and face the future.

     

  8. Anonymous says:

    Mac, I am with you on this. Do not provide Queens Legal council from London Chambers at our expense. These XXXXing criminals get world class legal aid from the high priced lawyers from UK or Jamaica.  This is a joke.  These criminals do not deserve any legal help at our expenses.

  9. Anonymous says:

    One way to at least partially fund legal aid – other than making people pay back the cost of their defence later – is to add to the penalty for all gang related crime the confiscation of all of the property of those convicted unless they criminal can prove that the property was obtained honestly. This would be particularly useful in deterring gang crime as the vermin seem to love their bling. 

  10. au revoir says:

    This is what happens when your own brain rejects you. In some countries, they would have locked him up for his own security.  In other countries, they would have put him into "special" schools.  In this country, they keep reelecting him.  Speaks volumes about the alternative, doesn’t it…

  11. Common Sense says:

    Here are a few ideas:

    1. Cap legal aid per hour to no more than what is earned by the prosecutor. If the state is paying for their defence, then the playing field in terms of talent should be level. I don’t see why this would be considered a breach of human rights.

    2. If convicted after receiving legal aid, the convict should be made to pay back the state for his/her legal aid by performing meaningful work (in shackles for serious criminals) such as road-side cleanup, saving the government that expense.

    There are many in Northward that received legal aid and nothing is being done to recoup the cost to the country.

  12. Anonymous says:

     I wish we had someone that could get up and address the nation in an intelligent and meaningful way that would make us all proud. I want to hear sound talk about solutions on how to reducecrime and give us more peace of mind.

  13. Anonymouse says:

    If my memory serves me right, in Jamaica you are guilty until proven innocent if the crime involves firearms. That goes for everything from simple posession of a bullet to use of firearms in criminal activity.

    The Gun Court is painted red and I recall Prime Minister Manley saying that it was red because it would be dread.

    Unfortunately neither the colour of the Prison or the guilty until proven innocent charges has had any effect on the deterrence of gun crimes in Jamaica.

  14. Anonymous says:

    May be he should look at ways of solving the problems try to pro-vent people from be coming criminal establish a minimum wage, top quality education for all through out life ,etc etc

  15. Anonymous says:

    Where I come from legal aid is offered for certain offenses after verification that the accused cannot pay. But regardless of the outcome the person is charged a fee to be paid back on a fee schedule. Even on a simple matter the fee is 350 dollars. Since everyone that uses a public defender must pay that back then there is money in the coffers for the more extensive matters. Also persons under supervision by agencies must pay fees for that supervision. Whether it be electronic monitoring, probation, parole etc.

  16. Wake me when it's over says:

    On second thought…….DON’T GO TO LONDON.

    Find someone else  ANYONE. 

    How about your housekeeper?  

    Think of some excuse tell them you’re sick or have a headache.

    The point is we’re on thin ice both with our economy, and our society and the perception we give the world, and this man is like a blow torch.

  17. Anonymous says:

    wow.. what a colection of stupidity..

  18. Anonymous says:

     we are all in a sad state of affairs when the leader of our country says you are guilty until proven innocent — if you can afford a lawyer.  

    if the system needs an overhaul, that’s fine.  maybe lawyers who are articling or in their first year of the bar work legal aid for free or half fees or something … but to twist the situation around to make it seem like legal aid condones criminal activity is disgraceful.  

    what kind of leadership is THIS??

    — and what the xxx is elio doing on a committee investigating the legal aid system?!?!?!  c’mon now! 

    • BORN FREE says:

      If we ever needed any further evidence that this man is a dictator this is it! He now believes that he is Judge, jury & executioner to any person charged with a crime! For him to make it "quite clear that he still objected to the principle of government paying to defend what he believed were criminals" is beyond belief! Who does he think he is? What happened to the notion of a person being "innocent until proven guilty"? My GOD, this man seems to be telling us that he is the law & government of this country. Him & only him! Who gives him the power to decide who is a criminal or not? This is very scary! The title of premier has gone to his head, because this ego trip that he appears to be on is worse than ever. GOD, please help us!

    • Anonymous says:

      "Mac sees red on legal aid"????? Are you sure you have that right? Shouldn’t it read "Mac sees green on legal aid" seeing as he seems to have banned anything red in his life, be it professional, personal or within government? (Please go check out the Cayman flag in front of the West Bay police station, the RED is not there, in our Cayman flag, NO JOKE!).

  19. Anonymous says:

    Will someone please explain basiclaw to the leader of our country? Please!

    For some reason he thinks that everyone charged with a crime is automatically guilty. He keeps repeating the same nonsense about "spending money defending criminals" over and over. It’s embarrassing.

    Isn’t there at least one lawyer in the UDP that can take him aside and quietly clue him in?

  20. Tc says:

    I pretty much agree with what Mr. Bush is saying, but I think that he should control his anger because his words can be a little too slanderous. 

  21. Anonymous says:

    Yes Premier, why bother with Court at all, is this not exactly what the gangs are doing, being their own judge and jury.  Please think before you speak, you are in danger of looking very foolish!

    Also, please look into the history books and at what is going on outside of this tiny island and tell me that human rights have not made the world a better place for many many people, just because they are not wealthy does not mean they are not deserved of rights.

    Bush Quote: "free representation of criminals was causing the rising crime problem" 

    Really?  are you sure its not the shortcomings of the police force and their investigatives skills that allow the criminals to go free?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Who in hell is going to have the XXXX to put a muzzle on this XXXX?! The Rolston’s, Sherri-Ann’s and Alberga’s of this World should be ashamed of themselves!

  23. I'm leaving! says:

    As a law-abiding citizen I find this a scary prospect. The premier’s belief is that I could never find myself charged with a crime and facing a trial. In order to be found innocent I would need representation which I cannot afford. Yes, the flaw of the system is that the majority of funds will go to defending criminals but the whole purpose of the justice system is to protect the law-abiding members of society, punishing criminals is secondary. By all means, come up with a way for criminals to pay back their debt once they are in prison but don’t alter a system that protects the innocent unless you can come up with something better!

  24. Anonymous says:

    I dont agree with most of decisions being made by this Govt but they are right on this one. Why should our tax dollars be wasted hiring expensive lawyers for people who have chosen to commit crimes? A Legal Aid Office is the right approach to this problem. They have the option of committing crimes or not and they can also get whichever lawyer they want provided they pay. Or else they can always fall back on the legal aid through the public defenders office.

    • Anonymous says:

      Simple, have you ever heard of the phrase innocent until proved guilty or are you so conceited to think that you can tell a person is guilty without hearing the evidence.

      I am pleased the majority are against these utterances from the Premier because it reinforces to me that the majority of Caymanian people are decent and understand the obligations of a democracy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh for God’s sake. How can you be bright enough to operate a computer and not bright enough to recognize that we don’t know who is guilty of a crime until AFTER their trial?

      Being arrested by a cop is not a conviction!

      What if someone falsely accused you of a crime and you were arrested? What if the police made an honest mistake and arrested you for something? Should we all just assume you are a guilty criminal who doesn’t deserve legal representation?

      Those educated people who are high up in the UDP leadership should bury their heads in shame to be associated with such backward thinking.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are right. We should use the funds we have set aside for educating our youth to be use instead for hiring QC’s to protect those accused of heinous crimes because these poor criminals might nor really be guilty after all.

        By the way in the United States you are lucky if you get a lawyer from the Public Defenders office – no hiring outside lawyers there. Only in Cayman will we fly in  expensive QC’s to protect those who kill our friends and family.

        And I am the poster whom you responded to.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I have a problem when legal aid is spent "flying" lawyers in.  There’s something wrong with the defense having more experience/costing more than the prosecution!

    • Anonymous says:

      Except of course that it doesn’t.  Check the budget accorded to prosecutions as opposed to that given to legal aid (which also has to pay for non-criminal matters). 

      You’ll find the former is three times the size of the latter.

  26. sadcitizen says:

    It is terribly disappointing to read that our chief law maker so fails to understand one of the most important legal principles, namely that a person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent.  All citizens in a civilised country such as Cayman should benefit both from such a presumption and from the state-sponsored right to legal representation necessary to safeguard it in any given instance.  Indeed, like any other citizen, our premier too would quite properly also be able to benefit from such a position and from the legal representation that would put any of his accusers to proof if the need arose.  

    As a politician, the premier may think it is enough that his remarks align him with a public quite properly upset by the rise in crime and frustrated by any failure to apprehend and convict those responsible.  But, as a responsible law-maker, the premier is expected to rise above the sort of simplistic and lawless tendencies undoubteldly possessed by some sections of the public that might once have resulted in and justified lynchings. 

    More importantly, it is hoped that any such political objective is misplaced too.  Large sections of an increasingly sophisticated (and internationally-connected) public may indeed be concerned about crime and conviction rates, but may not wish to be aligned with the sentiments that the premier expresses concerning legal aid.  If the crime rate is rising and convictions seem hard to come by, responsible members of the public expect politicians to distance themselves from lynch mobs and to take time instead to examine and address the root causes of both.  Depriving those accused of proper representation that would safeguard their presumption of innocence would in no way address the rise in crime.  Nor should it be seen as the answer to a failure to secure a conviction in any given case, which may be down to a range of reasons, ranging from an inability to access evidence that would otherwise have secured a conviction through to the accused actually not having perpetrated the crime in the first place.

    So, Mr. Premier, finding a way to explain the presumption of innocence and the state’s obligation to provide the legal representation necessary to safeguard it does not require "eloquent speeches".  Just a willingness to embrace fundamental values designed to protect everyone.  Including you. 

     

  27. Anonymous says:

     

    Red is dangerous -Government has spent too much money on Legal Aid for foreign nationals and Caymanians when they commit their wrong deeds.   If , I went to the USA or anywhere in the world got into trouble, whose responsibility would it be? either my country or family.  Of course, we hear of Human Rights, which has helped put  us in the RED.  Our  goverment  has nothing to gain from paying out  these large sums of money for persons who have committed such vicious crimes or has become undesirables here. 

    I could not agree more with Priemere Bush’s comment on the Mollycuddling of criminals.   Did the Cayman Islands make claims to any of these countries for reimbursements?  Oh, I believe, it is Human Rights that  staginates such a process! together with the UK and obsolete Laws on our books that has caused the demised of our country.

    Scale down the legal Aid to the minimum CI$2,000.00.

      

  28. A Concerned Caymanian says:

    Wow! That’s all I can say as I am lost for words…

  29. what a mess says:

    What a mess again!…what a shame!

    Mac, this is NOT about how YOU feel. This is about a person being innocent until proven guilty. This is the same in any civilized jurisdiction. You will not succeed with saying from one side of your mouth that Cayman is a safe and modern place to do business and to live while at the same time spouting non-sense such as "molly-coddling criminals". Until such people are convicted in a reputable court (which will need to include competent representation) they are not yet "criminals". Not in the eyes of any reputable court.

    This may seem unfair…but is far safer than allowing the Premier or some other Dictator to majically decide who is guilty and who is not. Besides, Cayman spends a couple million annually on legal aid…a mere drop in the bucket of Govt. expenditure…and a small price to pay to ensure justice and to have justice seen to be done.

    Also, it is very dangerous for the Premier (and some other community leaders) to speak of Human Rights mainly in a negative context. Often times they will shout about how bad it is to have Human rights when they want to somehow castigate homosexuals or some lesser person accused. But say nothing about how history is full of the powerful and otherwise "connected" people taking advantage of minorities or otherwise weaker people. It is far more advantageous for our leaders to properly educate themselves about Human Rights and then speak honestly to the many positive outcomes of countries who ensure same.

    All the G20 countries are making efforts to promote Human Rights…do our leaders really believe that Cayman can hold onto such antiquated thinking and behaviour and still prosper in the future?…Not likely!…

     

  30. Anonymous says:

    anywhere else in the world… mac would be forced to resign over such ignorance

  31. ruttering says:

    I am not a lawyer but I seem to remember being told that in extreme circumstances, for instance when a ship’s captain has clearly gone bonkers and his actions are endangering the lives of the crew, it is lawful for that crew to revolt and overthrow the captain.

    In my opinion the good ship Cayman is in precisely that danger now. 

    • March Forth says:

      Good plan, sounds like you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    • George Towner says:

      I agree with this but if he has his wall but without a gate do we not achieve the same objective?

  32. Anonymous says:

    "We cannot afford to presume people innocent until proven guilty while I am entitled to spend all the public money I want on my personal servants and improvements to my private home", was the cry heard round the world. 

    Wouldn’t it have been nice if that money was spent properly on improving the security of all of us, rather than on the vanity of one? 

  33. Xeno says:

    Spoken like a dictator in a banana republic!

  34. Anonymous says:

    In fact why bother with court at all?  All that time and money wasted with annoying requirements like evidence and proof.  Just get the police to drop them straight off at Northward.  Worked ok for Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, etc.

    XXXXX

  35. Anonymous says:

    It is excruciatingly embarrassing to read the Premier’s utterances. Clearly, this man is a loose cannon.  

  36. au revoir says:

    This XXXXX just doesn’t get the fact that he’s not been appointed dictator.  He appeals to the lowest denominator amongst the masses.  Even if a few millions are wasted on "criminals", it doesn’t compare to government’s waste of people’s money – now that’s criminal!!!

  37. Anon E says:

    And what does the "legal brain" in the UDP say about this? Juliana,  as a Caymanian lawyer, what do you say to the proposed destruction of the legal system in the Cayman Islands? Do you agree with the premier that all this innocent until proven guilty stuff is just fool fool nonsense?

    Nothing?

    Thought so.

  38. TennisAce says:

     Premier Bush, a word to the wise.  You are trying your very best to encourage people of wealth and substance to come to this country and do business and to make this place their home.  Many of these people that you are courting are coming from developed countries which have laws on their books which protect the rights of individuals.  They are coming from countries where persons are innocent until proven guilty.  They are coming from countries where the rights of individuals are enshrined in their constitutions. To then say that you do not believe in human rights is tantamount to telling those people that the government is courting to come and set up businesses here and to relocate here with their families that you do not want them here.   You cannot allow your own personal feelings about an issue to cloud your judgment as the premier statesman in this country.   As the voice of the people of the Cayman Islands you cannot allow the world’s press and indeed, the local media to even have the perception that you are intolerant or that you really could care less about people’s rights.   Just as how you are standing up for those in the financial services and the domestic helpers, persons who you claim have rights, then it is important that you stand up for all persons, no matter what it is that they are accused of doing.  That is why we have a judicial system.  It is there to ensure that everyone, no matter who you are, gets a fair trial.  I am quite saddened by this outburst from you sir as I have great respect and admiration for you but on this one, I have to disagree with your stance. 

  39. Zzzzz says:

    Mac sees the accused as criminals and puts the Rev. "Human Rights are the devil’s work" Sykes on the HRC (which to date seems to have done nothing since their appointment).  We will need to enforce our human rights in London or Strasbourg soon.

  40. Anonymous says:

    "Bush added that he was sick of ‘eloquent speeches about the rights of people, but what about their responsibilities?’."  What other rights will the Premier become sick of and take away from the people of the Cayman Islands?