Archive for October, 2010

Gambling referendum pushed back to 2011

| 31/10/2010 | 17 Comments

(CNS): Despite his commitment to hold a referendum in November on the contentious subject of legalised gambling in the Cayman Islands the premier has said that the people’s vote will now not take place until next year. In June, the premier said that he wanted to settle the matter once and for all and was planning to have an official public ballot in November. The introduction of legalized gambling had been one of a number of potential new revenue sources put forward to government by the national investment council. Talk-show host and former politician, Gilbert McLean had also submitted a petition to government with some five hundred signatures.

Although this was not enough to trigger a people initiated referendum, the premier had said in order to get the opinion of the voting public and final settle what has been a long and contentious debate the premier said he would hold the ballot. However, he told Cayman 27 on Friday that the necessary legislation for a referendum had not yet been passed and therefore he thought thevote would probably take place some time early next year.

There are two methods by which a referendum can be instigated according to the Cayman Islands constitution the first is when members of the legislative assembly vote for a ballot and pass the necessary legislation for that vote the second is for a referendum initiated by the people. Anyone who gains the signatures of 25% of the electorate can force the legislature to hold a public vote.

However, as yet the government has not enacted the necessary legislation as required in the constitution to provide this democratic right to the people not just for on the subject of gambling to provide a way for any voter to press an issue they believe has the people’s support.

In this instance McLean did not gain the necessary signatures required to trigger the people initiated referendum but the premier had offered his support for the idea of a public vote given the possibility that either a national lottery or the introduction of casinos for tourist could bring in much needed revenue for government coffers.

However, although there was considerable support from the private sector for the idea the Cayman Ministers Association was still firmly against it. In the wake of the premier’s announcement that there would be a referendum the church representatives submitted a petition to government with over 1200 signatures against gambling.

The PPM has said publicly that it has always opposed and continues to oppose any form of legalised gambling. The only current serving member that has offered his public support for a national lottery is the independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller.


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Guns in toy case back in court

| 31/10/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following a mistrial in March of this year Cassandra Bodden (26) will be facing a jury for the second time on Monday as the case against her for the importation of firearms and ammunition’s returns to court.Bodden is charged with attempting to import four guns and 420 rounds of ammunition which were found hidden in a model car. Justice Howard Cooke ordered a re-trial when the jury of four men and three women could not agree on a verdict. The prosecution states that Bodden knew about the contents of the packageand claimed ignorance to cover her tracks. Bodden however has protested her innocence saying she did not know what was in the package and had made it abundantly clear she did not know to a number of law enforcement officials. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

When Bodden went to clear the package through a local shipping agent and customs, she did so in the company of a police officer. In the previous trial defence counsel Ben Tonner claimed that his client should never have been charged as she simply did not know about the guns and had alerted the authorities on several occasions to the fact that she was not expecting anything from the United States, which is where the package originated.

During the trial Tonner said that the arrest and charges against Bodden sent a terrible message to the community that by being honest people could find themselves in the same position — in court facing a risk to their liberty. The lawyer stated that if his client had remained quiet the inspection would never have happened and the guns could have made their way on to the street.
However the crown contends that Bodden knowingly imported the four firearms, described as a .40 Smith and Wesson, a 9mm Ruger, a .45 Glock model 21, and a 9mm Arcus as well as 420 bullets, in April 2009. Prosecutors say Bodden appeared to have knowledge of the content of the package without having been informed by the shipping agent and her failure to turn up for a planned inspection pointed to her guilt.

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The law of unintended consequences

| 31/10/2010 | 10 Comments

Interfering with well tested and well established laws and procedures, without strong evidence of genuine problems that must be addressed for the greater public good, is usually ill-advised. The current proposals to cap certain non-economic, particularly medical malpractice (medmal), damages awards for personal injury and to shorten the time periods within which claims for such injuries can be brought, appear to assume that there are significant and urgent problems in Cayman and that they must be solved in this way. Both assumptions are open to question.

There is much to be gained by developing a viable medical tourism industry and also by ensuring that the Cayman Islands has a cadre of competent medical professionals who are properly compensated for their services and protected against unjustified and vexatious litigation and excessive damages awards. (I will leave for another day the issue of general insurance carriers and vehicle accident personal injury claims.) Few woulddispute these points. But to then argue that we cannot enjoy these advantages unless we enact legislation to limit recourse against and compensation payable by those medical practitioners (or their insurance companies) found to be negligent seems a huge leap. It also begs the question as to who will pick up the cost of those who are so injured and not fully compensated and ignores the reputational risk for Cayman.

The Law Reform Commission has produced a very worthwhile report (LRC Report) on the issues. Its key conclusions are broadly valid and very compelling, i.e. the proposed changes are, in isolation, not well-founded and that alternatives should be pursued. The Government and the community should take very careful note of the conclusions.

The implicit assumptions behind the legislative proposals are that we have or may have an unfair and out of control legal and judicial system here that is customarily producing or will produce excessive awards for personal injuries and that produces inequity for defendants (medical practitioners and insurance companies) because claims are brought too long after the negligent event or omission occurred. The LRC Report properly concludes there is no evidence to support these assumptions as far as the Cayman Islands is concerned (indeed there is some suggestion that damages awards here are currently too conservative and do not fully compensate those injured).

There appear to be two specific concerns that have been identified and that drive the assumptions. First, certain categories of medical practitioners in Cayman have seen their insurance premiums increase dramatically over the past few years (although they are still much the same as in Bermuda and the Bahamas). The UK company that specialises in medical protection, the Medical Protection Society (a not-for-profit/mutual organisation), and provides the cover in Cayman states clearly that each country where it provides cover must be self financing. That means the performance of the medical practitioners it covers in Cayman is the basis of the calculation of the premiums (called “subscriptions”). This means that, if medical practitioners here produce high claims and awards (or the MPS thinks they will in the future), the premiums will increase to cover them or provide reserves to cover future claims. Likewise, if they produce low claims and awards (or the MPS thinks that the risks will go down), the premiums will reduce. This is broadly how insurance works the world over. It is a cost of professional practice, just as it is for lawyers, accountants and other professions. So the medical profession should review the way it practices in order to reduce the incidence and level of claims and explore other ways of obtaining (possibly less gold-plated) coverage for liability (as should the insurance industry), before lobbying Government for special legislative treatment that potentially prejudices injured persons.

Secondly, the agreement entered into by the Government to encourage medical tourism includes a provision that such legislation be introduced. Presumably on the basis that visitors (mainly from the US) using these medical facilities will bring with them increased vexatious litigation and excessive damages awards, i.e. effectively import US style malpractice litigation to our courts. That concern seems to fail to understand the fundamental and significant differences between the US and Cayman litigation systems. For starters, Cayman does not have contingency fees for lawyers or juries deciding damages awards. And the awards to-date by the courts are far from excessive and there is no reason to suppose that the approach of the courts here will change because of medical tourism (and history suggests that a US person who is injured by medical treatment here will find a way to bring the suit in the USA anyway).

The fact that these problems exist in other jurisdictions with completely different legal, social and judicial systems, and yet do not exist here, is no justification for importing the overseas solutions, the moreso when there is no hard evidence that these so called solutions have satisfactorily dealt with the actual problems elsewhere, or would actually deal with the problems adequately here if they did in fact exist!

So before rushing to limit legitimate compensatory awards for personal injuries due to medmal (or any other negligence such as in a car crash) and reducing the time periods for such claims, we should consider very carefully the public policy issues raised. And, in particular, how we as a society would provide for those (particularly in the less well off sector) who suffer such personal injuries and would be precluded from obtaining full and adequate compensation. There is currently (almost) no welfare safety net in Cayman. There is also no free lunch. So are those who ask for reduced liability prepared to pay taxes or levies to compensate those who suffer and lose out under the proposals? And have they asked themselves the critical question “Would my view of the proposals be the same if I or a family member was injured because of negligence”?


Related article: Law Reform Commission says don’t limit claims

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Jamaican police release of force orders to the media

| 31/10/2010 | 4 Comments

(Jamaica Observer): Poilce Commissioner Owen Ellington, in his bid to increase transparency, has taken the unprecedented move to release the force orders to the media and by extension the general public. The force orders is a weekly internal police publication, which documents police transfers, commendations for officers who apprehend wanted men, destroy ganja fields and are outstanding in the line of duty. It also informs members of the constabulary of interdictions of officers who have ran afoul of force regulations. In addition, officers are alsoinformed of the deaths — whether by violent or natural means — of their colleagues and praises those successful in tertiary educational pursuits.

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Ex-newspaper tycoon loses appeal on 2 of 4 counts

| 30/10/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): The former Hollinger International Inc. chairman, Conrad Black lost his appeal of two convictions while winning reversal of two others in a ruling that may send him back to prison. A guilty verdict for obstruction of justice, for which he received the longest sentence, was upheld Friday by a US Court of Appeals in Chicago, as was one of three fraud convictions. A three-judge appeals panel set aside two other fraud counts. It said prosecutors can retry Black, 66, and his co- defendants on those charges. The ex-publisher and author was convicted in 2007 of participating in the theft of $6.1 million from the Chicago-based newspaper company.

“There’s nothing to indicate, based on what is in this opinion, that the obstruction would be impacted in any way or that that sentence would be impacted,” said Mark Flessner a former federal prosecutor now in the Chicago office of SNR Denton US LLP. “Judge St. Eve may very well just impose the same sentence with respect to Black.”
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Acting director finally gets top post at planning

| 30/10/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): After more than one year acting in the position, Haroon Pandohie has finally been appointed as Director of Planning in the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development. Pandohie took on the post in August 2009 and since then he has led the department through the government’s re-structuring of various laws, regulations and procedures. Chief Officer in the ministry Carson Ebanks noted the importance of planning the goals of that ministry and confident that Pandohie would succeed in the job. The premier also said he was delighted that he had been appointed and his hard work recognised.

“This job is a welcome challenge. It is rewarding to be appointed as I have a number of strategic ideas for the Department of Planning,” Pandohie said in a government release.

Having achieved a Masters of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers State University of New Jersey, Pandohie has worked in several sections in the Department of Planning for the past nine (9) years.

“Among other workplace accomplishments, he has managed 42 members of staff; implemented policies and procedures; assured the public’s compliance with Development of Planning Law and Development of Planning Regulations by ensuring his staff is properly trained,” the release stated.
Ebanks said the ministry was proud to have him appointed and amongst the ranks of very qualified Heads of Departments. “We realise that the Department of Planning plays a significant role in our ability to deliver on our mission, and, like any organisation, the Ministry depends heavily upon its management to facilitate and effectively lead its departments in these challenging times. We are confident that Mr. Pandohie will succeed in these endeavours and that the committed and competent staff will offer him the necessary support,” the chief officer added.

Premier McKeeva Bush said that even though he does not exercise responsibility for personnel matters, he was, “heartened to know that Haroon’s dedication and abilities have been recognized and rewarded.” Bush added: “We are delighted to have him as part of the management team and look forward to a continued relationship.”


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US high school teen graduate takes Miss World crown

| 30/10/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The title of Miss World 2010 has gone to 18-year-old Alexandria Mills from the United States of America. The high school graduate from Louisville, Kentucky, became the 60th woman to win the blue tiara which was placed on her head by outgoing Miss World Kaiane Aldorino from Gibraltar in China on Saturday. Miss Botswana Emma Wareus and Miss Venezuela Adriana Vasini were the first and second runner-ups and the host country’s own contestant, Tang Xiao was also placed in the top five along with Miss Ireland. Hopes for Miss Cayman Islands following Cristin Alexander’s massive success in the people’s poll were dashed when she failed to make the top twenty.

“It’ll be an honour to become Miss World 2010," said Mills, who was announced the winner by Julia Morley, chairperson of the pageant.

The ceremony started with a traditional Chinese dance, followed by the introduction of the Miss World contestants from all parts of the globe. All the Miss World contestants performed the ‘Dances of the World’. The subtitle of Miss World Talent went to Ireland while Northern Ireland was named Miss World Sports. Miss World Top Model title was won by Norway as Puerto Rico became Miss World Beach Beauty and Kenya was named Miss World Beauty with a Purpose.

The first Miss World competition was held in 1951 India and Venezuela hold the record of producing the most Miss Worlds to date, with five title-holders each.

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Howell fights off predator who stalks his companies

| 30/10/2010 | 0 Comments

(Jamaica Observer): Jamaican businessman Delroy Howell who is the lead principal of New Kingston’s Wyndham Hotel, is embroiled in a bitter legal to fight off a former company employee who somehow manage to gain control of one of his companies. Last week, Judith Wilchombe attempted to place a freezing order on the assets of Delroy Howell and a director of his companies Kenarthur Mitchell, claiming that both men misappropriated or have failed to account for US$13.9 million in assets that was under their management. The freezing order was lifted by Justice Patrick Brooks of the Supreme Court of Jamaica who said in court:

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Miss Cayman takes on the world in China

| 29/10/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The whole of the Cayman Islands will be hoping that Cristin Alexander will stand out in the world crowd of beauty queens on Saturday during the finals of the Miss World pageant in China. At 6 feet tall the 23 year old psychology graduate has already made her mark and has taken part in the beachwear semi-finals and the finals of the sportswoman contest as well. Cristin has also done remarkably well in the people’s choice hosted by the Missosology website where she has reached fourth place with 9% of the worldwide vote. The beauty queen was also part of a small group of contestants who launched the Sanya Open Beach Volleyball Championships this week.

A member of the Cayman volley ball team Cristin met up with a number of former competitors in the sport at the event. “It’s so strange to see them here,’ she said. “It’s the meeting of two very different worlds for me. I’m really excited to be part of this event.”

The Miss World contest will air this Saturday, 30 October at 9am local time when 115 contestants will take to the stage live for the 60th anniversary pageant. The show will be broadcast to over 180 countries and will be watched by more than a billion people.
Regardless of where Miss Cayman Islands places in the finals however she will no doubt return home on Monday to a warm welcome after her month long visit to China. She will be arriving home at 8:20 p.m. on Cayman Airways flight # 109.

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No plan yet to deal with green iguanas

| 29/10/2010 | 85 Comments

(CNS): While the law protecting a growing pest on the island – the green iguana – was amended in the Legislative Assembly 1 March to allow the invasive species to be controlled, eight months later the Department of Agriculture has still not produced a management plan to deal with them or any instructions for the public on how to humanely remove them from private properties. Yesterday, residents at King’s Court Britannia were appalled to see eight green iguanas that had been stunned and their legs bound behind their backs with duct tape and left in the sun, after which they may have been transported to the Yacht Club and released. Today, sources told CNS, iguanas on the Phase II Britannia property are undergoing the same treatment.

Since the law changed people are free to catch and kill green iguanas, but Mat DaCosta-Cottam, Manager – Terrestrial Ecology Unit of the DoE, told CNS that the department strongly urges people not to relocate the animals elsewhere. “It’s just a waste of time and exacerbates the problem,” he said. “There is no good place to release them and no reason to. If you’re catching an iguana on your property that means you’ve identified it as a nuisance, so by releasing them you are simply passing on the nuisance to someone else.”

He said that although the green iguana has been identified as a public nuisance and an environmental problem, no government department is mandated with dealing with them. “The onus is on property owners to take appropriate measures if they wish to remove iguanas from their land. While the iguanas a no longer protected, they should be treated humanely, and cruelty to the animals is not acceptable,” DaCosta-Cottam said.

He said the DoE gets calls every day from people about the green iguanas, and while it is not known how many there are on Grand Cayman, he believes there may be hundreds of thousands now and there have been reports that the greens have made an appearance on Cayman Brac as well.

On Thursday the King’s Court Britannia residents found the reptiles with their legs tightly bound at about 1:15pm. They said the animals were picked up around 2:30 and they were told that they would be taken to the Yacht Club for release. The Department of Agriculture animal welfare officer was called because the residents thought the method of dealing with the iguanas was cruel, but the fate of the creatures will not apparently be investigated.

Director of Agriculture Adrian Estwick told CNS that the officer “saw and spoke to complainant who stated that he convinced ‘some young lads’ to release the iguanas”. The officer was shown the pieces of tape on the ground that were used to bind the iguanas. “These so-called ‘young lads’ were not there and my officer does not have any information on them. It is assumed that the iguanas were released as they were only signs of duct tape there when the officer arrived on the scene at 2:56 pm on Thursday 28 October.”

In response to CNS questions, Estwick said that the management plan for dealing with the green iguanas, which is still in draft stage and will involve the DoE, “will address managing the over population of green iguanas in the Cayman Islands,” but did not provide a timeline for its completion or any further details.

Meanwhile, one segment of the indigenous population has found a way to deal with the pest. This local Racer (grass snake) was spotted at the Ritz this week, trying to snack on one.
  Related article: Green Iguana days numbered

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