Archive for November, 2013

UK police chopper crashes into Scottish pub

| 30/11/2013 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Eight people died after a police helicopter crashed into a busy pub in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, Friday night. The chopper was the same model, a Eurocopter EC135 as that used here by the RCIPS Air Support Unit. A major investigation is now under way and the British Air Accidents Investigations Branch will conduct an inquiry into the crash. Two police officers who were inside the helicopter and the civilian pilot were killed, as well as five people in the bar, known as The Cultha. Another 14 people were hospitalized with very serious injuries. The RCIPS said that this type of accident is extremely rare as the model of helicopter has an exceptional safety record.

The helicopter crashed into the roof of the pub at 10:30pm UK time on Friday night. It is thought about 120 people were in the pub at the time and most were rescued or escaped but others were trapped by a collapse on the left-hand side of the building.

William Byrne, 45, from Coatbridge, who was in the pub when the helicopter came down told the BBC, “There was a loud bang. Then there was dust and the lights went out. It was surreal. We didn't know what had happened. At our side of the pub at least two people were trapped under the gantry. Myself and others lifted it up and managed to get them out. I spent some time with one injured man."

Helicopter operator Bond Air Services said it was working with the police and emergency services to find out how the Eurocopter EC135 came down, which will also be of particular concern to the RCIPS.

Joining with policing services throughout the world in sending condolences to those involved in the crash, a police spokesperson said the RCISP would be informed about the cause.

“This type of accident is extremely rare and this particular model of helicopter has an exceptional safety record. The RCIPS is in direct contact with the manufacturer and as soon as the cause of the crash is known that information will be made available to us.

"Safety is of paramount importance to the RCIPS and we will continue to monitor the situation closely and take any required action. In the meantime, the RCIPS helicopter remains operational," the police stated.

However, according to another report in the UK's Daily Mail on Saturday, the same model of helicopter t was grounded last year amid safety concerns. Safety regulators had issued an emergency alert over the Eurocopter EC135 after a fault was found on an aircraft used by the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The helicopter had been found to have a crack on a rotor blade – a problem which experts said could cause it to crash. It led to air ambulance operators across the UK grounding helicopters as a ‘precautionary measure’, although they were later cleared to fly. 

 

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Cayman government signs anticipated US FATCA

| 29/11/2013 | 4 Comments

(CNS Business): Cayman became the first overseas territory to sign up for automatic exchange of tax information with the United States on Friday. Building on what local officials described as “more than a decade of cooperation in tax matters”, Cayman has signed the US FATCA. It also signed a new tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with the US that replaces the original TIEA signed in 2001. The new TIEA stipulates the legal channels through which information will be automatically exchanged. CIG has signed a FATCA Model 1 intergovernmental agreement which will see financial institutions in Cayman report information on accounts and entities that are substantially owned by US citizens to the local government, which will then relay the information to the IRS. 

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Port business case cost $650k

| 29/11/2013 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Although government is looking to the private sector to finance the development of the cruise berthing facilities in George Town, the public purse has already forked out a considerable amount on this project even before the concrete starts to pour. According to the tender award letter which was released by the tourism ministry on request to CNS, government signed a $653,860 contract with PricewaterhouseCoppers to undertake the strategic business case as part of the process. This is in addition to the legal contract with Appleby, the cost of the Environmental Impact Assessment and on top of the money spent by the previous administration, including the payoff of more than $2.5 million to GLF Construction.

According to the letter, the local audit and consultancy firmwas awarded the tender for the financial consultancy element of the project after it received the best value score of 95.2 points from the Central Tenders Committee after a competitive process. PwC then went on to produce the business case report and recommendations for how government should move forward to meet the policy objective of creating cruise berthing facilities in the capital.

The document released last month, which was accepted by Cabinet as making out a case for the project, recommended that government build two piers and the necessary terminals with no additional retail development. However, it also raises a number of real environmental risks and concerns that will fuel the Environmental Impact Assessment, which will also need to be paid for by government in the first instance before it gets anywhere near the point of putting together a request for proposals.

Government has set aside over $1m in this current budget to cover the administrative cost of finding a private sector partner to develop the piers, with the support and possible financial investment of some of the cruise lines.

Although the government has said it is committed to building the facilities, it is not clear yet whether the potential risk to Seven Mile Beach, which has already been identified, will be worth the end gain of larger ships calling on Grand Cayman. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that if the EIA demonstrated a real threat to Grand Cayman’s world famous beach, government would re-think the project.

See PwC award letter below.

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Storytime to begin in West Bay Saturday

| 29/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Story tellers, poets, musicians and actors from Cayman, the Caribbean and the United States will come together over the next week for one of Cayman’s best loved free arts festivals. Gimistory opens at West Bay public beach tomorrow night at 7pm with a line-up of storytelling stars as well as some traditional fish fry fritters ‘n’ swanky. A casual affair that encourages people to bring their own blanket or chairs will see Cayman’s own Quincy Brown along with David Bereaux & Friends the Blacksage and internationally renouned comedian Ken Corsbie and many more offering over two hours of entertainment in the opening, open air, event.

Gimistory which is sponsored by Cayman national cultural foundation started in 1998 and is now a true highlight on the local arts calendar and widely acclaimed as one of the best storytelling festivals the world over. 

“CNCF’S Gimistory is an event for all ages, taking us back to a time when people provided their own entertainment; a time when the imagination created images more colourful than any television screen and family and friends came together at dusk to share tall tales,” said the CNCF’s- Lorna Bush.

Staring in West Bay Saturday, the tellers move to Ned Miller’s yard in North Side Monday evening and then to Bodden Town on Tuesday, East End Wednesday, George Town on Thursday before heading to the Sister Islands on Friday next week. The final appearance is at Smith Cove for the much loved duppy night.
See full details below

 

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Hurricane season leaves Caribbean unscathed

| 29/11/2013 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Despite forecast of a stormy time in the Atlantic this hurricane season, the CaymanIslands was undisturbed by extreme weather and experts say that 2013 was the quietest season for three decades. The season ends tomorrow with just two hurricanes on record and for the first time in nearly 20 years there were no major Atlantic hurricanes at all. The close of the season also coincides with the new local celebration of Cayman Thanksgiving which starts today with the Homecoming Concert at the Agricultural Pavilion.  In a message from London the premier urged people to donate their hurricane supplies to the less fortunate and give thanks that we survived another season.

"Be thankful that we have escaped, unscathed, another hurricane season. Take the hurricane stocks of food and first aid supplies that you thankfully didn’t have to use this year and donate them to a food bank or make a basket of goodies for someone less fortunate in your community,” said Alden McLaughlin.

Although experts had predicted an “active to "extremely active" season of seven to 11 hurricanes no serious storms materialized but the forecasters were not far wrong on numbers as there were 13 named storms, which is an above-average number.

"We wound up having an unpredictable atmospheric pattern that set up during August, September and October," NOAA’s lead hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell stated this week "And that pattern brought a lot of dry and stable air, and also strong wind shear into the main hurricane development region. It really suppressed the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes from what was expected."

Although the storms that formed were suppressed by other conditions Bell said the number continues the trend over the last two decades.

"There's no indication that climate patterns that have been producing more hurricanes are dissipating," Bell said as he urged everyone to remain cautious and pointed out that Mexico suffered three hurricanes and five tropical storms. And although it is unlikely that the region will see any more storm after this weekend It's not impossible for an Atlantic hurricane to develop past November.

In the meantime, locally weather experts are forecasting continued rain in the Cayman area this weekend as a result of a weakening front east of the Cayman area and radar images show a north to south line of moderate showers over Grand Cayman moving southwest.

See McLaughlin’s full speech below for Cayman Thanksgiving below
 

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Women of Valour raise funds for Cancer Society

| 29/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(WoV): A basketball club for girls raised more than $1,500 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society (CISC) at a bake sale that took place at A.L. Thompson’s on Saturday, 12 October. The Womenof Valor is a league of young ladies between the ages of nine and 23 years old who not only practice and play basketball together a few times a week, but also come together to pursue projects to help the wider community. All proceeds from the bake sale have gone towards the building of CISC’s new chemotherapy unit at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

The girls raised nearly $800 selling cakes, brownies and other baked goods but many generous passersby did not even purchase anything and instead provided charitable donations. Property and development consultancy BCQS International matched the proceeds making the total contribution to CISC almost $1,600.

Coach Redver Ebanks said, “We would like to thank the girls for their time and effort and our corporate sponsor BCQS International for their generosity. Being civic minded and giving back to the community are qualities that we try to cultivate amongst the young womenin our club. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to help with a great cause.”

Ray Doxey, a father very much involved with Women of Valor, said, “Our organization helps mold young women into good citizens. Women of Valor isn’t just about playing basketball, it is a place where girls come together to learn about leadership and teamwork, as well as gaining a sense of purpose and focus.”

One member of the club, 16-year old Chloe Powery, commented, “The main aims of the Women of Valor is to keep girls busy and off the streets. I love playing basketball but it is more than that – the goal is to encourage girls to be productive and involved with something that is positive both for themselves and others. We decided to fundraise for the Cancer Society because Cayman has a lot of cancer patients and we wanted to help and give something back to the community.”

Jeremy Superfine, Director at BCQS International, commented: “We are delighted to be able support these young ladies with their fundraising for the Cancer Society’s new chemotherapy unit currently under construction. BCQS are construction and cost managers for this exciting project, so I can understand how difficult it must have been for those who have brought the project to the construction stage.

"Whilst the facility is only 1,000 square feet, it is a complex refurbishment project that will provide a more comfortable place to have treatment. Without the support of excellent contractors, material suppliers and design consultants who are contributing much of their time, this project would not have been possible to complete within the available budget. We thank the Women of Valor for their efforts in supporting this.”

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society: A non-profit organization formed in 1995, the Society is funded through charitable donations and its fundraising events. The mission of the Society is to increase awareness amongst the people of the Cayman Islands of cancer as a major health concern, to initiate positive change in all areas relating to cancer, to prevent the development of cancer and to counsel and support cancer patients and their families. For more information, visit www.cics.ky.

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Warning issued of illegal cosmetic ‘pumping parties’

| 29/11/2013 | 12 Comments

(CNS): Local health officials are raising the alarm that unqualified and unlicensed people could be administering dangerous injections at ‘pumping parties’ for cosmetic purposes here in Cayman. The Health Practice Commission (HPC) said Thursday that it has been made aware that there may have been instances of individuals who are not medically trained or licensed offering “beauty” injections that can pose a threat to lives. Officials said that by law, all health care facilities and all health care practitioners are required to display their current Certificate of Operation of a Health Care Facility or Certificate titled “Health Practitioner Licence to Practice” respectively.

Any treatments, cosmetic or otherwise that involve injections must take place in a registered health care facility.

Pumping parties are becoming increasingly common across the US and other countries as they tempt people with cut price cosmetic procedures, such as breast and buttock enhancement. The procedures, however, are not only illegal but have resulted in a number of fatalities. Hosts offer a variety of treatments but in extreme cases in the United States people have been injected with industrial grade silicon, super glue, bathroom sealant and even Fix-A-Flat has been pumped into breasts and backsides to create curves.

The HPC warned of the serious health risks posed by these illegal parties or any other circumstances where people get injections from unqualified and unlicensed persons in unlicensed facilities.

The commission also said that people should not assume that such procedures cost less in an illegal setting than in a registered facility. The HPC said there is often the need for additional expense when complications arise from unlicensed treatments that require corrective surgery.

HPC officials said that patients or customers seeking any kind of beauty, cosmetic or health treatments involving injections should confirm that the practitioner is licensed by checking or requesting to see their certificates. If there is no certificate on display and one cannot be produced, the HPC warned that this means the facility has not complied with the national standards for a health care facility. It also indicates that their credentials have not been checked by government nor has the practitioner been screened for appropriate and required credentials.

“The DHRS will continue to keep the public informed as to any risks that it is made aware of,” the commission said as it urged the public to be aware of the dangers.

Anyone who has evidence that a facility without a license is offering injectable treatments should immediately contact the Department of Health Regulatory Services (DHRS) at hpbusers@gov.ky to file a formal complaint.

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Calling all cronies

| 29/11/2013 | 0 Comments

We all know that just about the only things that prosper in the dark are mushrooms, cockroaches and corruption. Recently, and without any publicity in the press, the present government made changes to the laws governing our civil service. Those changes ought to raise red flags. What our government has now put in place are new rules that make it possible to hire and promote people to permanent positions in our civil service without any fair and transparent open competition. That is a very serious change that reversed long-standing rules.

I can’t understand why this government in particular has done this. Perhaps I am just too young to be cynical.

The previous PPM government introduced laws designed to increase transparency and lessen corruption. So why is this government now doing things that seem to go against those goals?

Why would a government that says that it is in favour of transparency make changes to our laws that allow for secret non-competitive permanent appointments to the civil service? Who sold this to government? Who is going to benefit from the introduction of such a secret process?

Why was there no publicity and no consultation on this? No one I know in government HRM was consulted about the effects that such secret appointments will have on the civil service. There was no circular to the civil service letting people know that this was being considered. There was certainly no public consultation that I am aware of.

The recent changes were buried in a piece of complex legislation with nothing to point them out to the average person, and with no reasons being given by Cabinet as to why the changes were made. To be honest, the changes are so insidious that if it had not been for a colleague who has done a lot of reading about how corruption happens and also reads the Cayman Gazette to see what government is doing, I am not sure when I would have noticed what they have done. 

Here are the specifics of what government has done in a nutshell. The selection of people for positions in our civil service is supposed to be done on the basis of a fair and transparent competitive process, and not on the basis of secrecy and cronyism. That is part of how we are supposed to achieve good governance.

Under the set of rules that applied up until October of this year, there was some assurance of transparency, particularly in relation to hiring people for senior civil service positions. The old rules (section 41 of the Public Service Management Law and Regulation 32 of the Personnel Regulations) said that hiring or promotion of people to permanent positions without open competition was not allowed. Period. This requirement for hiring people for permanent positions on the basis of a fair and transparent competitive process made it difficult for corrupt politicians and civil servants to hire or promote their cronies into permanent positions.

A new version of Personnel Regulation 32 was passed into law by Cabinet and came into effect in October 2013. That new version creates exceptions to the old prohibition on hiring to permanent positions without an open and fair competition. The new version changed the wording of Personnel Regulation 32 so that it now refers to a different part of the Public Service Management Law, section 41(13) instead of 41(12).  That change has the effect of allowing for the hiring and promotion of people to permanent civil service positions without any open competition and without transparency. Not only was that change completely unnecessary for any government that actually wants transparency, it is a tool that could be used in the future for corrupt practices, just like every other tool that removes transparency and fair competition from government procurement.

The old version of regulation 32 did allow for temporary appointments to civil service positions but only in rare situations, including when there was an emergency. Let’s face it, running a fair and transparent open recruitment process can take a few weeks. There are times when emergencies happen, like after Hurricane Ivan, when it may be necessary to temporarily appoint someone to do a job that has to be done immediately. The old rules provided for emergencies.

The new rules that came into effect in October turn the concepts of transparency and open competition on their head, allowing for permanent appointments on the basis of an opaque process that does not involve any open competition. There is no conceivable justification for allowing permanent appointments to civil service positions other than on the basis of a fair and transparent open competition that selects the best person for the job. Some may say that the Deputy Governor is supposed to oversee the non-competitive appointment process even under the new rules, but that does not counter the fact that there is no legitimate requirement for any opaque non-competitive permanent appointment process.

No one is saying that the new secret appointment process will be used immediately or all the time. What I am saying is that there is no need for any secret non-competitive permanent appointment process at any time. Why introduce a completely unnecessary tool that could be used in the future for corruption and cronyism?

Perhaps the changes made by Cabinet last month were just a typographic error. There is, after all, only a one digit difference between section 41(13) and section 41(12).  I would like to think that is what happened, rather than something much more sinister.

Whatever happened, if this government wants to have any credibility in relation to ending cronyism and corruption then it will reverse the changes it made last month and once again prohibit opaque non-competitive permanent appointments to the civil service under any circumstances. It will also pass new rules to ensure that civil service selection panels are ‘crony- free’ and that there is a formal and very public vetting process for all persons sitting on civil service selection panels. I believe that it is important to have unbiased private sector and public sector participants involved in selecting people for senior civil service positions in particular. We don’t need selection by the civil service ‘old boys’ club and we don’t need selection by cronies. Unbiased selection will help eliminate the incompetence, cronyism and empire building that is in part responsible for the waste, and worse, in our government. Perhaps the Commission on Standards for Public Life could be asked to publish a set of rules that would help eliminate cronyism and corruption from civil service appointments.

Finally I would like to encourage all civil servants, whether they work in HR or not, to speak up about things like this that you see happening. I also encourage everyone else in our community to do the same. We all need to be vigilant and vocal.  

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DNA leads to gun conviction

| 29/11/2013 | 13 Comments

(CNS): A 20-year-old West Bay man is looking at a decade behind bars after a DNA match on a glove led to a gun conviction. Ray Kennedy-Smith Jr was found guilty Thursday of possession of an unlicensed firearm by Justice Charles Quin, who presided over the trial earlier this month. The loaded Smith & Weston pistol, which was recovered by a USG police officer outside the Memory Lane Bar in West Bay, was with a ski mask and a pair of gloves, one of which carried a match for Kennedy-Smith’s DNA. The convicted man was seen outside the bar with two other men when police drove into the car-park on the night of 31 July 2011 as they felt the men were behaving in a ‘fidgety’ manner.

The smell of ganja led the police to conduct a search of the men and the area where Smith said he had “gone to take a piss” as the police car had approached him and the other men. It was then that the officer found the ski-mask, gloves and pistol by an air conditioning unit.

Although it was later discovered that there were no prints or DNA on the gun, a DNA match for Kennedy-Smith on the gloves was enough to lead the judge to the “inescapable conclusion” that he was guilty and that as a result of other circumstantial evidence he was “satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt”.

During his judgment Justice Quin went over the events of the night and the evidence presented by the crown.

The USG officer had expected to find ganja when he took his torch and examined the side of the building where he had seen Kennedy-Smith disappear to as the police car drove in. Having detected a strong smell of cannabis and after searching all three men and finding a spliff on one of them, the officer asked Kennedy-Smith why he had disappeared so quickly when the police pulled up. Kennedy-Smith told the officer he had “gone to take a piss” but the officer concluded that he had been gone for far too short a time for that to be the case and went to search around the area where he had seen the suspect go.

After finding the weapon, the police officer shouted, "Gun!" to alert his colleagues and drew his own firearm as he ordered themen outside the bar on the ground. Kennedy-Smith, who was described by the officer as “sweating profusely”, was the only man who remained silent while the others protested their innocence.

During his interview following his arrest and throughout the trial Kennedy-Smith denied knowing anything at all about the gun and stuck to his story about urinating as the police arrived.

However, he chose not to give evidence at trial and Justice Quin explained that he was entitled to take an adverse inference from the defendant’s silence because the DNA, together with the circumstantial evidence, did present a clear case to answer. At the close of crown's case the judge said the defendant had the opportunity to take the stand and explain why his DNA was found inside the glove but he chose not to do so.

The fact that he did not led Justice Quin to conclude in his decision that the “only sensible explanation is that he had no answer to give”.

Although a defendant still has a right to silence, changes in the law have given judges and juries the right to draw adverse inferences from someone’s silence in certain circumstances.

Justice Quin noted that while the DNA alone could not lead to a conviction, the fact that all three items were found together was no coincidence. The judge said he felt the three were inextricably linked and it was common sense that they could be used together for unlawful purposes.

With no sensible explanation for why the defendant’s DNA was inside the glove, coupled with the circumstantial evidence that he had disappeared just as the police arrived, that he was acting suspiciously and sweating, plus the finding of the three items together at that time led the judge to the conclusion that the defendant was guilty as charged and had possessed the firearm.

Following the verdict, Kennedy-Smith, who was on bail, was immediately remanded in custody. Despite having no previous criminal convictions, the young man, who was 18 at the time of his arrest, will be facing a mandatory ten years in jail. Justice Quin stated that he would deliver the sentencing ruling in January.

Following the delivery of the verdict, defence attorney Prathna Bodden, from Samson McGrath, confirmed that she would be seeking an appeal in the case on behalf of her client.

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Cops begin Christmas clampdown on drivers

| 28/11/2013 | 15 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has announced the start of this year's festive road campaign in an effort to reduce the number of accidents during the holidays and deter people from drinking and driving. Six people have lost their lives on Cayman’s roads this year so far and the police are urging all road users to play their part in ensuring that no other family experiences the tragedy of prematurely burying a loved one. The annual road safety drive named ‘Stay Alive’ begins on Friday 29 November and runs into the New Year until 5 January 2014. Although drinking and driving will be a major focus for police, the campaign is aimed at other traffic offences as well, such as speeding, driving while using a cell phone and failing to wear a seat belt.

 
The RCIPS said they will be using a combination of education and zero-tolerance enforcement to challenge dangerous driving behaviour, and road checks and  high visibility patrols in the vicinity of licensed premises will be commonplace. In addition, targeted operations will take place throughout the campaign period to detect those who drink and drive, commit traffic offences or use the roads for criminal purposes.
 
“Road safety education and enforcement is a 24 hours a day, seven day a week priority for the RCIPS,” said Superintendent Adrian Seales. “As the festive season fast approaches and people start planning parties and family get-togethers, now is an ideal time to remind people about the need to stay safe on the roads, and not to drink and drive. We urge people to make sure that having a designated driver, booking a cab, or employing a pick-up service such as ‘Home Safe’ is a priority and forms part of their festive planning .
 
“Unfortunately, too many people still get behind the wheel of their vehicles after drinking, putting their own lives and the lives of innocent road users in danger. It’s time for people to take responsibility for their actions – so join with us to ensure that the festive season is a time for celebration, not a time for mourning.
 
“We want everyone to have fun, but to do it responsibly.Don’t speed, don’t use your phone whilst driving, remember to buckle up and do not drink and drive," he added.
 
This year to date, 181 people have been arrested in relation to drinking and driving, 734 speeding tickets have been issued, 1,205 drivers have been ticketed for using their phones behind the wheel and 560 have been caught not wearing seat belts. Police said that almost ten percent of those tickets were issued to drivers because they had children under the age of 14 in their vehicles who were not secured by a seatbelt. 
 
The police have also dealt with 882 collisions so far this year, an average of more than two and a half a day, 22of which resulted in serious injury to those involved and six people were killed.
 
During last year’s festive safety campaign, which ran from 30 November to 4 January,  33 people were arrested for DUI, 98 ticketed for not wearing seat belts, 54  people were found to be using their cell phones while driving and 137 speeding tickets were issued. In addition, the five week campaign saw 138 road crashes reported.
 
Police said that weekly updates will be provided throughout the campaign.

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