Archive for March 22nd, 2012

CJ warns of judicial threats

| 22/03/2012 | 41 Comments

P3220003 (230x300).jpg(CNS): Full speech now attached — Cayman’s chief justice warned of emerging threats to the independence of the regional judiciary during a presentation at a UCCI conference Thursday. Anthony Smellie said the trend towards extra-judicial bodies overseeing judges, such as Cayman’s Judicial Legal Services Commission (JLSC), had the potential to encroach on their autonomy and to have a negative influence on their impartiality. In a presentation that emphasised the importance of an independent judiciary to modern democracies, Smellie warned against complacency as he pointed to other encroachments, including the removal of the local legal aid budget under the edict of ‘nation building’ here in Cayman.

In a lunchtime presentation at the UCCI 50/50 conference in the Sir Vassel Hall, the Cayman Islands top judge warned that, despite the relative stability of the judiciary in the Caribbean, the independence of judges was under threat around the world and there was no room for complacency because there were examples very close to home that continued to threaten its impartiality.

He said an immediate and apparent danger was a “new kind of judicial control” which had the potential to intrude upon judicial insularity from external influences. He pointed to Cayman’s own JLSC, which he said was “in the midst of trying to unravel the Gordian knot” of disciplinary control of judges.

Smellie pointed out that where the trend for disciplinary control of judges had emerged, such as in the UK, Canada and the US, it was recognized that any such process should remain within the judiciary in order to maintain the important separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

He said if the disciplinary regime is to be imposed from outside, the public was likely to question the ability of judges to remain impartial if it were to have a legal case regarding the external regulator.

The senior judge pointed out that the judiciary already had more oversight and checks and balances, because of the appellant system, than any other public office.  “Judges sit in the open glare of public scrutiny — scrutiny by the immediate parties involved and by the media on behalf of the public,” the chief justice told the UCCI conference audience. “It is no doubt also due to the fact that judges are amenable to having their decisions immediately reviewed by way of appeal.”

By the very nature of what they do, the chief justice said, judges are already accountable in many ways, “more accountable than the public officials of any other branch of government.” The chief justice explained that the separation of powers “contemplates that the judiciary will hold its members accountable to the law” through the powers of “appellate review and not through a process of inquisitorial oversight and sanction,” he added.

Smellie questioned if the trend of disciplinary control of judges was likely to be for the public good when it was weighed against the dangers to judicial independence and he said there were already dissenting voices in other jurisdictions. He pointed to the extraordinary dangers in small jurisdictions of the erosion of impartiality since it could invite dissatisfied litigants to harass judges who rule against them. And while the authorities may dismiss complaints based only on the merits of a decision, he pointed out that a review would still be required which may incline a judge to avoid rendering controversial decisions while the investigation ran its course

“Any disciplinary system that allows or encourages interested parties to strike out at judges is too great an interference with judicial impartiality to be tolerable under the doctrine of separation of powers,” Smellie warned, adding that no disciplinary system should be imposed that would interfere with a judges ability to be independent.

Smellie also spelt out the fundamental importance of an independent judiciary to uphold the law, the people’s rights and to facilitate business and economic stability. He said an independent judiciary was able to ensure “that powerful individuals must conform to the law” and that no one is either above or below the law. 

As well as the threat that judicial inpendence faced from the encroachment of the executive with extra-judicial disciplinary bodies, the chief justice pointed to the budget constraints that the judiciary faced around the region. He said that while Cayman was luckier than some jurisdictions where judges had to go to judicial ministers for approval of every penny they spent, its vulnerability to political control was illustrated by the recent diversion of the entire legal aid budget away from the courts “by way of ministerial edict” for “nation building purposes”.

Although he said that the money had now been re-instated, the chief justice described the move by the premier during the budget process in October 2009 in which he took control of the legal aid budget under his ministry.

“This was said to be justified in part out of a sense of political umbrage that the courts should not be spending money on expensive lawyers ‘to get criminals off the hook’. And this was although the lawyers are paid at the minimal rates prescribed by Cabinet itself,” he said, as he explained the move occurred despite the fact that the local courts are charged by law and under the constitution with the administration of justice.

Smellie explained that the delivery of legal aid is an essential part of that since most criminal defendants cannot afford to pay their own lawyers.

“While the position with legal aid has since been restored to the status quo ante, the episode certainly gave the impression that the political directorate did not regard the administration of justice as an important priority and did not understand the need for institutional independence of the judiciary as a vital aspect of its ability to administer justice," the chief justice said.

He warned that it was but one example of how the judiciary needed to be insulated from political control.

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Jamaica begins plans for anti-corruption agency

| 22/03/2012 | 0 Comments

Greg-Christie-2_w370.jpg(Gleaner): The single national anti-corruption agency proposed by Contractor General Greg Christie, to fight corruption in Jamaica, is now being given serious consideration by the Portia Simpson Miller administration. Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said consultation is now taking place between local stakeholders and Jamaica's bilateral partners to arrive at the most effective approach to tackling corruption in the country. Golding did not disclose the name of the country that was holding talks with stakeholders on efforts to intensify the drive against corruption. "I don't want this to linger so I am hoping it can be done very quickly," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

The justice minister revealed that he has set a two-month deadline for the consultation process after which a decision is to be made.

Golding divulged that a document was being prepared by an "outside expert" on behalf of the National Integrity Action Limited to examine the "whole question as to what would be the optimal approach to take, whether to have the single agency or some other construct".
He said the single anti-corruption agency proposed by Christie had some attractions to it with all the resources of at least three oversight bodies residing in one entity.

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Junior Rugby flexes its muscle

| 22/03/2012 | 0 Comments

Trinity7s (273x300).jpg(CRFU): Local Rugby is enjoying an influx of visiting tourists to these shores looking for a Cayman Rugby experience and although Dartmouth University have made an early impression so far winning 2 out of their 3 games on Island it is Holy Trinity High School, a team from Ontario Canada that was left licking its wounds on their 2nd trip to the Cayman Islands since Hurricane Ivan. Not only has the Cayman Rugby Football Union rebuilt its clubhouse, fixed its pitch and made continual improvements to its grounds since the hurricane but the Junior Rugby program, under the tutelage of Coaches Russell Hayward, Noel Phillips and Gary Southway, has also gone from strength to strength.

Photos Caroline Deegan

The Cayman U17’s played a series of 7 a side matches on Monday followed by a full XV’s match against their Canadian counterparts and all matches were won in landslide fashion by the young Caymanians with the highlight of the day being a 60-0 hammering in the full XV’s fixture.

The Holy Trinity rugby program does not have the Cayman Islands benefit of nearly 365 days of good (if a little hot) rugby playing weather and has to cram it’s rugby program into a 12 week window before cold weather conditions make rugby playing impossible if not unbearable and as such a chance to play high quality opposition featuring some of Cayman’s very own 2011 U19 NACRA Caribbean Champion side poses an attractive proposition for any developing side looking to improve its skills before going home to take part in local competitions.

Trinity15s (300x143).jpg

The Holy Trinity side, with only a 1 day rest to review defensive and attacking deficiencies played again on Wednesday 21 March and a much improved performance saw another loss but this time only 31-0.

If the improvement continues for the Holy Trinity side they will be able to once more look back at their Cayman Rugby experience as the starting point in a successful domestic season

Game 1 Monday Final score 60-0. Scorers: Sebastien Legras 1 try, Mark Westin 2 tries, Iain Currie 1 try, William Hayward 1 try 4 conversions, Mike Peck 2 tries 1 conversion, Angel Hawkins 1 try, Gary Watler 1 try, Paul Westin 1 try. Man of the Match (chosen by opposition coaches) William Hayward.

Game 2 Wednesday Final score 31-0. Scorers: Jordan Mclaughlin 1 try, Gabriel Soloman 1 try, Paul Westin 1 try, Giovanni Dixon 1 try, Rejeun Henry 1 try, William Hayward 2 conversions, Mike Peck 1 conversion. Man of the Match (chosen by opposition coaches) Michael Peck.
 

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Former Irish PM ‘failed to account for money’

| 22/03/2012 | 4 Comments

Bertie Ahern.PNG(BBC): The Irish government has asked the Irish police to look at the findings of a report into corruption in the Republic's planning process. The Mahon Tribunal found that former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern failed to truthfully account for a number of financial transactions. But the tribunal did not make a corruption finding against Mr Ahern. However, it rejected the former Taoiseach's evidence about the sources of money in his bank accounts. The tribunal, which ran for 15 years, makes several findings of corruption against a number of witnesses. The tribunal found that Mr Ahern failed to truthfully account for a total of 165,214.25 Irish punts passing through accounts connected with him.

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Purple Dragon to open new karate dojo this weekend

| 22/03/2012 | 0 Comments

Purple Dragon.JPG(CNS): Purple Dragon Martial Arts is holding the grand opening of their new and improved dojo (Karate studio) at the Mirco Centre on North Sound Wayvon Saturday, 24 March, from 10:00am to 2:30pm, and everyone is invited. The official ribbon cutting by Sports Minister Mark Scotland will be take place at 11:00am.  Throughout the day, the public can take tours through the new facility, and there will also be several demonstrations given by the Purple Dragon students, ranging from mighty tot beginners all the way up to the black belts.  The martical arts school says the sensei and weapons demonstrations will amaze everyone.

The new space has been completely renovated to include a larger dojo floor, enabling two classes to be held simultaneously.  The dojo also features a study area for students, changing areas and a pro-shop featuring clothing, safety equipment sparring wear, books and traditional training weapons.

“We are very proud of this new location and look forward to showing it off to the public”, Sensei Floyd Baptiste stated.  “The practice of Don Jitsu Ryu, is a great way to gain self-discipline while getting a workout at the same time.  This form of karate developed by world renowned martial arts expert Professor Don Jacob, has been practiced at Purple Dragon for more than 40 years, and is highly recognized and respected around the world.”

“Here at Purple Dragon we feel it is important to build self-confidence and discipline, while still having fun,” Sensei Baptiste added.

Purple Dragon welcomes people of all ages to participate in their classes.  In addition to the Don Jitsu Ryu karate, there are classes for self-defense, fitness kickboxing and even a workout bootcamp.  The large, open space is also perfect for children’s birthday parties or other events.

There will be specials all day for new memberships and items in the pro-shop.  Visit the Purple Dragon Cayman Islands Facebook page before the event for a chance to win a free month membership www.facebook.com/PurpleDragonCayman.

For more information on the Cayman Islands Purple Dragon Martial Arts please contact 946-1241 or visit www.purple-dragon.com.

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Petition for one man, one vote passes 3000 names

| 22/03/2012 | 31 Comments

ballot box hand.jpg(CNS): Organisers of the petition to trigger a people initiated referendum on one man, one vote say they are about to make history with their efforts to collect signatures from registered voters. They now have more than 3000 names on the official petition and anticipate that they will easily reach the 3800 names required to trigger the national ballot well before the end of April. Alva Suckoo one of the leaders of the campaign backing the petition launched by MLAs Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean said he had no doubt that in the end the petition would ensure that Cayman adopted a democratic and fair voting system.

"I am extremely pleased with the response to the petition so far,” said Suckoo. “We are currently witnessing history in the making and I have no doubt that the end result will be the adoption of a political system that guarantees greater equality, accountability and voter participation. We still have a target to make and I encourage everyone to make sure they do not miss the opportunity to sign the petition. This petition is helping to preserve democracy and proper representation for all of our people."

Aside from  going door to door volunteers have also been collecting signatures at key public locations such as the local supermarkets and outside the post office in downtown George town several shops also have copies of petition books and there are dozens of people ready and able to go out and meet people who want to sign, Suckoo added.
The local activists will be handing the petition over to the governor once they have the full 3800 signatures required under the constitution to trigger a people’s referendum. 

However, they intend to carry on collecting signatures in an effort to persuade the premier to introduce the one man, one vote system without the need for a referendum in time for the May 2013 elections.

Mckeeva Bush has already stated publicly that he will hold a referendum on the topic at the same time as the general election next year but not in November as is requested in the petition.

This means there will be legal wrangling over the issue and if the petitioners fail to win their case for a November 2012 referendum the next election will still be held under the multi-member constituency system. With three extra seats at the next ballot it could mean electors in George Town will be casting up to six votes, giving them a disproportionate influence on the make-up of the national government compared to residents of other districts.

Government has not yet passed the necessary legislation to add the three new seats ahead of the next election as set down in the Cayman Islands 2009 constitution. He had however indicated his preference for adding two seats to George Town and one to Bodden Town as recommended by the boundary commission in relation to the population.

He has however since indicated that he agrees that having six seats in George Town was too much and hinted about, although did not commit to, adding one of the extra two seats in the capital to his own constituency of West Bay.

To do so however, would as was indicated by the opposition leader be a blatant case of gerrymandering – the practice of manipulating election districts or constituencies in order to influence the results of an election.

Alden McLaughlin recently noted that the population of West Bay did not justify further seats when he also called on the premier to waive the need for a referendum and adopt single member constituencies and one man one vote for the 2013 national vote.

Ezzard Miller told CNS this week that the petition had been enjoying enormous success going house to house as the volunteers had been widely welcomed into people’s homes where they were more comfortable listening to the argument for the more democratic system than in public forums.

“The time is right the people want this and the premier needs to do the right thing,’ he said.

Anyone wishing to sign the petition can contact any of the following:

Al Suckoo Jr                        916-1689              alva.suckoo@gmail.com
Johann Moxam                                                 jmoxam@hotmail.com
Noel March                        916-1429              ntmarch@hotmail.com
Chris Goddard                   928-6534              sportnzone@candw.ky
Betyann Duty                    916-1494              bettyann.duty@hotmail.com
Kent McTaggart                928-3449              kent@spscayman.com
Bo Miller                              916-0003              miller.bo@gmail.com
Sharon Roulstone            516-0220              cayshay@hotmail.com
Marco Archer                    939-7474              msarcher@candw.ky
Bryan Ebanks                     916-3048            
Edward Caudeiron           916-0157              terrycaudeiron@hotmail.com
Terry Caudeiron               916-7895              terrycadeiron@hotmail.com
Ezzard Miller                      327-5757              ezyhealth@telecayman.ky
Arden McLean                  916-0630              arden@candw.ky
Woody Da Costa               916-2470              woodyd@candw.ky
Gregg Anderson               916-6777            
Alden McLaughlin            916-3153
PPM Office                         945-8292              ppm@candw.ky

Petition books are also available to sig at Four Winds Esso in West Bay, Walkers Road Texaco, in George Town, Pinnacle Condos on 7MB, as well as the Book Nook and Hobbies and Books.
             

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Power returns after fuel problem cuts supply

| 22/03/2012 | 7 Comments

cuc buckets_0.jpg(CNS): Residents across Grand Cayman were without power for almost an hour on Wednesday morning when CUC faced what it said was a problem with fuel supply in an engine room.  A spokesperson for the local power company said that customers on Walkers Road, along the West Bay Road and towards the east in Bodden Town, Frank Sound Road and up to Morritts are without power for a period on Wednesday morning but crews worked to ensure it was restored before 11:00am. “The outage was the result of a problem with the fuel supply to one of the main engine rooms. CUC apologises for any inconvenience the outages may have caused,” the spokesperson added.

 

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Best cop and have-a-go-heroes top police poll

| 22/03/2012 | 12 Comments

Police Officer of the Year- Miguel Mcfarlane.jpg(CNS): Senior Police Constable Miguel McFarlane has been named Police Officer of the Year. The man responsible for walking the beat in downtown George Town and known as theface of the RCIPS is held in high regard by tourists, residents and business people alike for his professional approach, officials said following the annual RCIPS Outstanding Service Awards held last Friday. Three have-a-go heroes who, despite being threatened with a gun and pepper sprayed, detained the suspects who had terrified staff and tried to rob the Blackbeard’s liquor store in Grand Harbour last May also received the police community award at the special celebration.

CommunityAward - Blackbeard's and Sunset Divers.JPGHaving now secured the local expression “not today Bo-Bo” a place in the local history books Ray McGuire, Edward Azan and Charles Ebanks shared their award with three other people who braved treacherous seas to try and save four men who had been thrown into the water when their boat capsized in June.

Peter Foster-Smith and Charlotte Roselev, of Sunset Divers, had been on a dive boat with Charlotte’s friend Martin Jensen when they saw a small boat capsize. Peter battled extremely rough seas while Charlotte and Martin entered and the re-entered the water, facing repeated personal danger, to pull the four men, none of whom were wearing life jackets, onto the dive boat.

They took the men to shore where paramedics were waiting.  Unfortunately one of the men could not be resuscitated and died. But for the bravery of Peter, Charlotte and Martin the death toll could have been much higher, the police said.

From the ranks of the RCIPS Constable Sharon Baillie, of West Bay, picked up this year’s Diversity Award.  “Sharon has excelled in devising projects with the young and old to keep them engaged with each other and the wider RCIPS. She is responsive to the needs of everyone in her community and is a fine example of Neighbourhood policing,’ a police spokesperson stated in a release.

The winner of the RCIPS Welfare Award was Sergeant Winsome Prendergast, a former President of the Welfare Committee, who was nominated for her unrelenting commitment to the Welfare of police staff. 

The Special Constable of the year was Medardo Martinez, one of many officers who volunteer their services and work alongside regular police officers – without pay. Medardo worked almost 700 hours in 2011, making him the Special Constabularies top performer – all while carrying out his full-time job.  He works every Friday night with the George Town shifts and has been involved in a number of significant arrests this year. He is a valuable and popular member of the RCIPS team, the RCIPS said.

Venice Tatum is the Administrative Secretary at Cayman Brac police station and was named as Support Staff Member of the Year. Venice was nominated by her colleagues seven times and for two separate awards. She is described as the “backbone”, the “heartbeat” and the “engine” of the police station – and when she is not carrying out her day-time role she is also a Special Constable.

Almost 500 people attended the awards at the Ritz-Carlton, George Town, on 16 March profits from which benefit the Police Welfare Fund.  Officials said they expected this year’s ‘do’ to surpass last year’s inaugural event which raised $50,000 for the fund.

Originally established to assist children of police officerswho died while in service the fund has now expanded to cover a wide range of circumstances such as illness or injury and to support members and their dependents in times of need.

In the past year $75,000 was provided by the Fund to help 25 RCIPS families. In addition, as a direct result of last year’s inaugural RCIPS Outstanding Service Awards event, scholarships have now been offered to RCIPS staff and their children to the tune of $19,000.

Commissioner of Police David Baines, in his introductions, shared his appreciation for the overwhelming support and generosity. “Tonight we celebrate all that is good about policing and community safety in the Cayman Islands,” he said. “All while benefitting a really great cause- the Police Welfare Fund.”

He added that there had been a great response from members of the police service and from the public for the nominations

“The standard of submissions was extremely high and the judging panel had a very difficult task choosing the finalists and the eventual winners,” Baines said. “But it’s clear that everyone who was nominated, whether they are a police officer or a member of the community, should be considered a winner tonight. The fact that their bravery, their professionalism and their commitment to do the right thing inspired others to nominate them is testament to the great work that is taking place every day throughout these Islands – in the name of policing and community safety.”

 

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Answers wanted in Mac probe

| 22/03/2012 | 83 Comments

_DEW2462.jpg(CNS): Ezzard Miller has once again called on the premier to explain the letter that triggered a police investigation into his financial affairs that has now been going on for almost two years. The independent member has also called on the police commissioner to explain what is taking so long to give the people answers. He queried what else the police may be looking into in connection with the enquiry and who it was that was not cooperating that has led to such a drawn out investigation. Miller said the situation of McKeeva Bush being the subject of a criminal enquiry while remaining as the Cayman Islands' leader was undoubtedly damaging the country’s reputation. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The North Side representative and political veteran said the failure of the police to arrest Bush, given the evidence that everyone has seen, sent the wrong message. If the police could arrest the former chair of the housing trust board while the investigation into irregularities surrounding him continued, what it was that made the premier so different, Miller asked.

“Politicians all need to understand that if they commit an offence they are arrestable like anyone else, otherwise we will never address the problem of corruption in this country,” he said.

In the wake of news that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Michael Misick, the former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, over corruption there by the UK authorities, Miller said it was interesting that here in Cayman, some two years after the letter sent by the premier to Stan Thomas asking for $350,000 was handed to the police, nothing at all has happened.

“I think it is time for the premier to givethe long overdue explanation for what he has described as a real estate bill and clear it all up,” he said. “If there is nothing wrong, he can easily show us the contract that it relates to or what it was that warranted the payment in connection with the re-zoning of land.”

Baffled that this issue could take two years to resolve, Miller added, “We need explanations from the police chief. Who is it that is not cooperating? When an investigation is going on for some two years, it makes one wonder how widespread the investigation now is and how far does it go beyond this particular bill.”

Miller said when people in high office are not held responsible, it has a duel negative impact because not only is Cayman’s image tarnished on the international stage but there is a moral decay that permeates the society. If ordinary people see those at the top not setting an example they too begin to ignore the laws of the land, he said.

The investigation into financial irregularities surrounding the premier was revealed publicly last summer, although the probe had actually begun in 2010 following the discovery of a mysterious letter from the premier on Windsor Development letterhead that he had sent from a government fax machine to Texan developer Stan Thomas over the re-zoning of land.

The consulting for this re-zoning had already been undertaken by the previous owner and when Thomas bought the land the application had already been made. The only outstanding decision was a Cabinet one – a decision that comes without fees. No explanation has ever been given by the premier for the bill, which was sent a few weeks after Hurricane Ivan had torn through Grand Cayman, leaving massive destruction in its wake.

See the Bush-Thomas letter here

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Cops found gun in freezer

| 22/03/2012 | 0 Comments

Crime Scene Cleanup_full.jpg(CNS): A loaded colt 45 handgun was found in the freezer during a special operation last year in Prospect the court heard Wednesday. Joshua Brown (23) from George Town had been arrested in September following information received by 911. When police searched his girlfriend’s apartment in the immediate wake of his arrest officers recovered the loaded semi-automatic weapon wrapped in a white t-shirt from the freezer draw of the refrigerator in the kitchen which was later linked to Brown, the prosecution said, as a result of DNA evidence.

Brown who has denied possession of an unlicensed firearm and six rounds of ammunition faces a minimum of ten years jail time if he is found guilty of the offence.
In the summary of its case when the trial opened Wednesday afternoon,the crown said that police also found a mask and gloves in the apartment where Brown was believed to be staying with his girlfriend, in the Marina Drive area. However, the crown conceded that Brown was not present when either the mask and gloves or the weapon was found in the apartment as he had been arrested regarding unrelated matters and taken to George Town police station.

Detective constable Damien Maxwell who was attached to the drugs and serious crime force told the court that he was called to the address on the morning of 8 September where the RCIPS’ armed response unit, the uniform support group had carried out an intelligence led operation. When he arrived he said he saw Brown being arrested and then he along with three other officers executed a search warrant for the apartment where he was staying.

Maxwell said he began his search in the kitchen in the presence of Brown’s girlfriend and after around 15 minutes came across the heavy object wrapped in a white T-shirt in the bottom freezer draw.

“During my search of the kitchen area I opened the freezer section of the refrigerator and in the bottom tray I discovered a white t-shirt wrapped around a heavy object,” he said. After lifting the object up slightly and discovered its weight the officer told the court that he had immediately called for a scene’s of crime officer, who then wearing protective clothing unwrapped and examined the gun. He said the Colt 45 hand gun was loaded with a magazine containing six bullets.

Maxwell also revealed that he had collected items of clothingfrom the bedroom closet and dresser to take to the police station to give to the defendant but he denied picking up the clothes from the bedroom floor, when Brown’s defence attorney raised the issue of potential contamination.

The trial continues Thursday in court five

 

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