Archive for November, 2013

UK expert advises on human rights and parole

| 27/11/2013 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Representatives from the relevant government agencies took part in a two-day workshop last week on the issue of how the Bill of Rights impacts parole decisions and the early release of prisoners. The training comes at a time when government has drafted a new Conditional Release Law. The proposed new legislation will replace the current parole system and usher in a much tougher and harsher regime to reduce the high re-offending rates in the Cayman Islands. It is hoped that the law would result in lower risks to the community and better prepare prisoners for release through rehabilitation and re-entry schemes.

Natalya O’Prey, Head of Member Development and Practice at the England and Wales Parole Board, conducted the workshop on how human rights affect the parole system, specific rights that affect parole and the licensed conditions imposed, such as personal liberty, movement, fair trial and private and family life.

It was organized by the Office of the Deputy Governor in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and attended by representatives from the Governor’s and Deputy Governor’s Offices, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Community Rehabilitation, the Prison Service, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Immigration Department, the National Workplace Development Agency, the Department of Counseling and the Cayman Islands Parole Board including chair Deborah Ebanks and the members Twyla Escalante, Pastor Alson Ebanks, Marilyn Conolly and Dwene Ebanks.

“It was exciting to see the interaction of agencies and I was impressed with the excellent practices and procedures in place and the desire of all participants to address problems,” said O’Prey. “The Cayman Islands officials are striving to ensure that parole hearings and decisions are fair and proportionate and do not compromise human rights.

“While there are very similar human rights issues in different jurisdictions, the Cayman Islands is a very sophisticated country and is already adhering to most of the recommended principles, which permeate the justice system. It would therefore not take a big shift in operations to achieve the desired results,” she added.

Achieving the balance of natural justice is not always easy, the expert stated, for there are many considerations that have to be taken into account relating to the victims, the offenders, as well as the issue of public protection. However risk to the community is the paramount consideration.

Apart from the human rights concerns, the workshop participants heard about the provisions of the draft Conditional Release Law being sponsored by the Deputy Governor’s Office. Government has agreed to bring in new legislation shortly, which is called the Conditional Release Law, to replace the current parole system. Conditional Release is a much tougher and harsher regime that is planned to reduce the high re-offending rates in the Cayman Islands and will result in lower risks to the community; it will also prepare the prisoner for release through rehabilitation and re-entry schemes.

In her previous role as Deputy Head of Litigations, O'Prey dealt with litigation against the board, including judicial reviews, damages claims and other civil proceedings. She previously spent 18 years in the courts service, and since 2011 has been closely involved in supporting parole activities in the overseas territories.

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Flu jabs available as case load increases

| 27/11/2013 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Although around 1,400 people have taken up the offer of a free flu vaccination from the Health Services Authority (HSA). Public health officials are urging more people to take advantage of the shots as they forecast a high prevalence of flu this winter.  The Centers for Disease Control reports that flu activity remains slightly increased in the United States, even though worldwide it remains low. In the Caribbean and Central American region, influenza activity is high with reports of A (H1N1) and A (H3N2) detections. Likewise here in Cayman more cases have been reported including at least one confirmed case of A H1N1(2009).

“Usually weaverage about 85 to 90 cases Flu like illness (Acute Respiratory infections) per week,” said Dr Kiran Kumar the medical officer of health. “During the month of September 2013, we averaged 141 cases of Acute Respiratory infections per week. This is well above the weekly average and indicates the start of the 2013/14 Influenza season along with the opening of the schools.”

Dr Kumar pointed out that an annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step for protection against the viruses as he encouraged those concerned about getting sick this winter to take up the free vaccine offer.

The number of cases has declined to an average of 132 per week during the month of October and to 127 per week in November.  As of November 16, 2013 the total number of cases reported is 5,290 compared to 4,161 for the corresponding period last year.  We continue to monitor the situation,” Dr Kumar added.

He also confirmed the results of recent tests. “Since September there were thirteen samples for Respiratory Viral testing. Among them was one positive for Influenza A by local testing, confirmed  by  the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Trinidad (CARPHA)  as  A H1N1(2009).

None were positive for Influenza B so far. While the confirmed case is only one, we presume the seasonal flu strains A H1N1, A H3N2 and Influenza B are circulating. Irrespective of the strain, the prevention and management is the same,” he said.

December & January are peak periods for flu activity in North America and the Cayman Islands may see a similar situation.  “Hence it is essential to get thevaccine now,” the government doctor advised.

The public can get the flu vaccine at any time between 2pm and 4pm weekdays when they visit any District Health Centre, or the General Practice Clinic Cayman Islands Hospital,  Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac  or the Little Cayman Clinic. 

The Public Health Department is continuing the onsite workplace vaccination initiative for companies with twenty or more employees wishing to have the vaccine to minimize disruption of work.  The site visit can be scheduled by contacting the Public Health Department on 244-2648.

The vaccination is recommended for all persons aged six months and older. It is particularly important for the young, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems, morbidly obese persons (with a BMI of 40 or greater) as well as healthcare workers and caregivers. In addition to the vaccination, personal hygiene measures of covering your cough, sanitary disposal of used tissues and hand washing are essential in prevention and control of flu.

For further information, please contact the Public Health Department on 244-2648.

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OTs & UK agree way forward

| 27/11/2013 | 30 Comments

(CNS): Leaders from the overseas territories have agreed the way forward with the British government on a number of pressing issues, from economic diversity to crime fighting, following a two-day meeting in London that ended Wednesday. A communique from the London summit published by the FCO revealed that the Caribbean territories have signed an MOU to share police support when needed. The territories also received a commitment from the UK for support over and above law enforcement resources to help tackle violent crime. The territories also agreed to fight tax evasion, simplify and improve immigration laws and focus on economic diversification.

“We believe that the global economy is changing quickly, creating both uncertainty and opportunities for us all,” the OT leaders said in the communique. “At this, our second meeting, we focused on action to support economic diversification, jobs and economic growth.”

As a small but powerful lobby in Cayman continues to try and undermine efforts by the CIG to pass the National Conservation Law, the communique demonstrates that the UK is expecting all of the territories to enact protective legislation that will see them meet their environmental commitments before May next year. It also commits the UK to ensure the continuation of relevant funding programmes for the overseas territories environment, conservation, biodiversity and climate-related projects.

The NCL will ensure that Cayman meets a number of international obligations and treaties and deals with the UK’s goal to preserve the rich environmental assets of the Territories, which include an estimated 90% of the biodiversity found within the UK and the Territories combined.

The OTs have also agreed to put in place "robust and reliable extradition arrangements” by extending  the 2003 Extradition Act and to takeadvantage of the expertise of the UK Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service and HM Prison Service to progress alternatives to custody, prison reform, restorative justice and protection of vulnerable witnesses.

The leaders have all agreed that they believe the people of all overseas territories have a right to determine their own futures and to maintain freely their constitutional link with the UK but affirmed their commitment to shared values, high standards of governance and building a stronger partnership with the UK.

“Any decision to break the constitutional link should be on the basis of the clear and constitutionally expressed wish of the people of the Territory. We believe that the UN Decolonisation Committee should delist Territories where this is their wish,” the leaders stated.

Welcoming the increasing engagement of the UK Parliament and their support for the territories, the leaders expressed a determination to continue to work in partnership.

The OT minister Mark Simmonds expressed his view of the meeting: "There was a real sense of progress towards our shared ambition for the territories as vibrant and flourishing communities. We are working together to support economic growth and job creation and to demonstrate that the territories are among the best places in the world to do business," he said.

Simmonds will also open a major UK-Overseas Territories Business Forum in London tomorrow to promote investment opportunities between the OTs and UK business.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday night the Cayman Islands premier began promoting the country at a special dinner for current and potential future Friends of in an effort to inspire investment.

“Our strategy is to foster an environment that facilitates private sector growth, employ prudent fiscal management within the public sector, further develop an educated and work-ready populace and continue the development and modernisation of Cayman’s infrastructure,” Alden McLaughlin said.

Delivering the message about the diversification into medical tourism with Dr Devi Shetty’s Health City, the plans for cruise berthing and airport upgrades as well as the continued strength of the financial services industry. McLaughlin pointed to legislation and international agreements that prove the Cayman Islands continues to perform in developing globally accepted standards. “Tackling tax evasion and fraud is a global responsibility in which Cayman will continue to play a part,” he said.

The premier told the audience about Cayman’s unique tourism products and the country’s appreciation to protect and conserve its environment, telling them that the long-awaited National Conservation Bill has been tabled in the Legislative Assembly and is scheduled to be debated before the year’s end.

“In Cayman we recognise that we must do all that we can to protect the environment on all three Islands to ensure that we preserve paradise for future generations of residents and tourists alike,” he said.

See OT Communique and McLaughlin’s dinner presentation below

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Archbold leaves ICTA but CIG silent on reasons

| 27/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Dave Archbold, the director of the Information Communications Technology Authority, left the regulator on Tuesday and Glen Daykin has been appointed Acting Managing Director until the official recruitment process to replace the old boss is complete. The ICTA was embroiled in a scandal during Finance Committee last month when it was revealed that the director had overseen the appointment of two overseas staff without following the proper recruitment process, possibly overlooking local applicants. The board was instructed to review what had happened and report back to the Legislative Assembly but government officials have remained silent on whether or not Archbold’s departure was forced. Read more on CNS Business

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CIG consulting on beneficial ownership disclosure

| 27/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Although the Cayman authorities already collect elements of beneficial ownership regarding offshore companies, they are now under pressure to collect more and make that information public. As the international regulatory regime moves towards full automatic exchange of information and transparency regarding offshore commercial activity, the CIG has opened discussions about how it should do that and whether Cayman should establish a central registry with full public access to meet the latest demands from the UK to lift the lid on what the world still regards as the secrecy surrounding commercial entities using offshore companies and trusts for tax avoidance and evasion. Read more on CNS Business

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Bank robbery case collapses

| 27/11/2013 | 16 Comments

(CNS): A case brought by the crown against three men charged with conspiring to rob the George Town branch of Scotiabank collapsed after the judge questioned the credibility of the key witness. The only evidence presented against James McLean, Christopher Myles and Kevin Bowen came from David Parchment, the man charged with being a co-conspirator after his car was caught on camera as the bank robbers’ getaway vehicle. The case, which was plagued with procedural issues before it started, was weak from the very beginning and before the key witness was cross-examined Justice Alex Henderson, who was presiding over the trial alone, raised his concerns about the main witness.

Prior to the opening of the trial lawyers spent much of last week engaged in legal arguments before the judge regarding the failure of the prosecution and ultimately the police to disclose key evidence. Lucy Organ, from Samson McGrath, representing Christopher Myles, also argued for poorly conducted identification evidence to be excluded. Justice Henderson threw out that evidence because of what he described as the “unacceptable” way the ID was conducted, not least because the suspects were the only individuals pictured in a photo ID selection in prison uniform, completely prejudicing the selection.

However, arguments by all of the defence attorneys, led by Guy Dillaway-Parry and supported by Organ and Fiona Robertson, that the crown’s failure to disclose material to the defence was so significant the case should be stayed, failed.

Nevertheless, after hearing Parchment’s evidence-in-chief the judge made it clear that he would not be convicting anyone on such evidence without corroboration. On listening to the broad facts of the crown’s case at an early stage, the judge had already questioned Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards, QC, how the crown could not be sure that Parchment was in fact the getaway driver in the heist. Querying his character, previous convictions and other issues the judge advised Richards, who was leading the case, that he had serious concerns that there was nothing to support what the lead witness claimed had happened.

With the crown having nothing else to offer, the judge returned not guilty verdicts against the three men and discharged them from the court. Parchment, however, who has pleaded guilty to accessory to robbery, will return to court for sentencing next month.

The case hung entirely on Parchment’s claim that the three accused men had borrowed his car to commit the robbery and had then paid him $1,600 to do so, but there was no supporting evidence for this. He was arrested right after the hold-up, in which three masked armed men entered the bank, threatened staff and customers before making off with over $23,000 in Parchment’s car, driven by an unknown person. Parchment claimed at the time of his arrest that his car had been stolen and he knew nothing about the robbery. A few months later, questioned by the police again, he changed his mind.

After police turned off interview tapes, Parchment allegedly told officers about the conspiracy and then later, when the tapes were turned back on, he told an entirely new story regarding the meeting, stating that the men had asked to borrow the car. The next thing he knew, Parchment claimed, was when he saw his vehicle outside the bank on the local media after a picture taken by a tourist was circulated just minutes after the heist (pictured above).

Parchment said that later on the three suspects came and gave him $1,600, even though they had promised $4,000, and told him the police had the car.

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LC robbery suspects all local

| 27/11/2013 | 66 Comments

(CNS) Updated Wednesday 1:08pm: Following the quick arrests made by the RCIPS of the suspects in Little Cayman's first armed robbery Tuesday afternoon, police have confirmed that all five men were Caymanian. The men were on board a canoe, which was spotted at sea during a joint operation involving the RCIPS Air and Marine Units. The five alleged robbers, aged 20,  27,  27, 29 and 40, remained in police custody Wednesday. The robbery took place at about 1:10pm yesterday when police received a report that five men, some of whom were armed with what appeared to be guns, entered the mini-mart store in Blossom Village and stole the cash pan, ran off and boarded a ‘fast vessel’. No shots were fired and no one was injured during the robbery. 

About 3.30pm, the RCIPS helicopter, which had deployed with armed officers on board, spotted a modified canoe approximately 25 miles off East End, Grand Cayman.

An RCIPS spokesperson said that the helicopter crew coordinated an intercept of the canoe by the Marine Unit’s Guardian. The canoe, with all five suspects on board, tried to evade Guardian by changing course several times at speed. However, according to police, the combination of the helicopter hovering ahead and the tenacity of the Guardian crew led to the suspects stopping the boat in the water.

Marine officers boarded the canoe and arrested the men on suspicion of robbery. The RCIPS reported that the men and the boat are currently being brought to shore.

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Roots

| 27/11/2013 | 27 Comments

There has been a great deal of debate recently regarding the proposed National Conservation Bill. Those arguing against the Bill have painted a rather disturbing picture — one in which nature is depicted as the non-human “other” standing in the way of progress. As an environmental policy masters student, this is a depiction of nature that I have become used to reading about.

Environmental issues are often framed as dichotomies: Evil governments versus poor locals, destructive locals versus wise governments, conservation versus development, humans versus nature, etc. All the messy grey areas in between are conveniently eliminated.

I can understand, therefore, why those in opposition of the Bill are keen to present the issue as Caymanians versus “bugs, slugs and scorpions”.

What I cannot understand is why we, given our heritage as Caymanians, are buying into this rhetoric.

I have always maintained that the Cayman Islands occupy a unique niche socially, ecologically, and historically. Our country developed slowly throughout most of its history until very recently. The  Cayman Islands’ transition to a tourist and tax haven occurred over mere decades. We have elders within our community who remember what it was like to have to rely on the land and sea for food, shelter, and clothing. The short temporal scale of change has had a distinct impact on the construction of the Caymanian cultural identity. Our collective identity is anchored firmly in the years that Caymanians spent relying on our islands’ natural resources for subsistence, and the hopeful resilience with which previous generations faced the future despite their materially bare existence.

Our identity as Caymanians is inherently tied to our islands – and to the plants and animals that also call this country home.

The silver thatch trees we bulldoze to make way for a new subdivision used to provide our not-too-distant ancestors with roofs, rope, baskets and hats. And the soil those trees grow in is aerated and packed with nutrients by all the creepy-crawlies the editor of the Compass happily dismisses.

I am not saying that our ancestors were always in harmony with nature, or that our environment will collapse ifsomeone treads on a slug. What I am saying is that our natural resources used to be viewed as assets and that should not change simply because we no longer need to build our walls from wattle and daub.

The Caymanian cultural identity is rooted in the interconnectedness with the environment that shaped the lives of generations past and these roots must be sustained if we are to maintain our identity in the face of increased globalisation and modernisation.

We need to stop framing environmental issues in terms of a dichotomy that does not exist. We may not have to rely physically on the land anymore, but that does not mean that our environment has become irrelevant or an obstacle to our development. The natural beauty of our islands is a vital component of our tourism product, for example, and it must be sustained if we are to continue to be a favourite destination for divers and bird-watchers.

I wonder if the reason we are so willing to accept the picture of Caymanian versus nature that has been presented to us is because we have forgotten about our roots.

As our catboats were replaced by jetskis, and our wattle and daub by concrete, we forgot to take care of the natural world that had taken care of us for so long. We stopped teaching our children about the plants and animals that shared our islands — to the point where many can’t tell the difference between a green iguana and a blue iguana, let alone between a bull thatch and a silver thatch. And, as we lost touch with the natural world that shaped us, we lost touch with who we were as a people.

We need to remember our roots and the ground in which they are firmly anchored.

Vote in CNS poll: Should the Legislative Assembly pass the National Conservation Law?

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Community urged to take free HIV tests

| 26/11/2013 | 0 Comments

CNS): As part of this year’s local World AIDS Day activities, the Health Services Authority is offering free HIV testing and counselling this week through to Friday 29 November ahead of the observance on Sunday, 1 December. This year is the 24th anniversary of World AIDS Day which was first observed in 1988,to raise awareness about the epidemic, honour those who have died, focus attention on issues that are key to a successful response and inspire positive action. After more than three decades in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, this year the global community has again committed to focusing on the three targets:Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

While HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives today an almost equal amount – 35.3 million people around the world, are currently living with the virus.

Tests are available at George Town General Practice, West Bay Clinic, North side Clinic, East End Clinic and Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac- between 9am  and 1pm. The testing procedure involves a quick and simple blood test.  No appointment is necessary during this week and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than ten minutes. Persons seeking counselling and testing will need to indicate to the registration clerk that they would like to register for the Free HIV testing. 

Results will be available in three working days. These will be given to the patient only, who must return to the clinic where the test was taken to get the results. NB: For Little Cayman Clinic, clients are asked to call to schedule an appointment before 29 November   on 948 – 0072.

Free testing and counselling as well as educational booths have also been organised at other locations as a joint initiative between the Health Services Authority, the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross:
UCCI : Informational booth on HIV/AIDS- November 25th  and 26th 12:30 – 2 pm and free testing and counselling  – November 25th   2pm -4pm;
CAF Office free testing and counselling   – Tuesday November 26th   and Thursday November 28th 2013 @ 5PM -7PM
Cayman Islands Red Cross Building: Free testing and counselling – Wednesday November 27th 2013  @ 5PM -7PM
Cost U Less : Free testing and counselling – Saturday November 30 , 10 am – 2pm

For more information about HIV testing week, contact Therese Prehay, Health Promotion Officer on 244-2632.

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CICA stays pay-back order but fraud conviction holds

| 26/11/2013 | 10 Comments
 
(CNS): A bank clerk who was convicted of stealing over $29,000 from a customer's account has been given the chance to argue for an extension to the compensation order for the stolen cash as he says he can't pay the money back yet. Erick Adam was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in June 2012 but following his release from prison in October on parole, Adam had been ordered to make good on his commitment to pay back the money within three years. However, because work he had anticipated getting on release from jail fell through, the former Royal Bank of Canada employee was in danger of returning to jail if he could not come up with the cash by 26 December.

 
Following a failed appeal hearing last week against conviction and the actual order, the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal issued a stay on the compensation order and directed the Grand Court to hear Adam's arguments for an extension to pay back the $29,000 he was convicted of stealing.
  
The panel of judges explained that they were not overturning the order but Adam, the son of the former community affairs minister Mike Adam, was for the time being no longer at risk of returning to prison. He now had the chance to agree a new timeline on how he would pay back the cash.
 
Represented by local attorney Richard Barton, Adam had appealed his conviction, stating that the case was based largely on circumstantial evidence and hand writing experts, who had rated the probability of Adam being the author of the forged signatures on cheques used to steal the money, which Barton said had required a more specific direction from the judge to the jury. The lawyer also argued on his client's behalf that the commitment to pay back the cash, which he still denies stealing, was based on the assumption that he would get work. Through no fault of his own, the promised employment fell through and he was no longer in a financial position to pay.
 
The appeal court disagreed and dismissed the appeal against conviction and refused to quash the compensation order but directed that the Grand court hear Adam's case.

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