Archive for March 10th, 2014

Radio talk-show host arrested for assault

| 10/03/2014 | 96 Comments

(CNS): The lead host on a local talk show has been arrested by police on suspicion of assault causing actual bodily harm and damage to property following what sources say was a major domestic dispute at a social gathering at a house in Governor’s Harbour on Sunday night. Austin Harris (41) from Rooster’s early morning show, Crosstalk, was arrested when he turned up at George Town police station Monday afternoon after a warrant had been issued based on the complaint made on Sunday at around 10pm to West Bay officers. In the meantime, the radio personality also appears to have been suspended from his job with the return of his former talk show pal and one time politician, Ellio Solomon.

Harris, who lives in George Town, reportedly assaulted a female friend at a private house on Sunday, which then erupted into a much larger melee involving other guests.

Harris, who was bailed by police to reappear at the police station Tuesday as enquiries continue, was absent from the show Monday morning but that absence appears to be more permanent. Rooster released a short statement on Monday evening saying that Harris had been suspended by  the station as a result of the arrest and his former co-host would be back.   

"Harris  will  remain  on suspension until the issue is resolved," the station said, adding that he would be replaced "temporarily" on Cayman Crosstalk by former host Ellio Solomon, who stepped away from the programme when he was elected as a member of Legislative Assembly in 2009 for the UDP.  

“We are disappointed to have to take this action today,” said Hurley’s Entertainment Director Randy  Merren. “However,  we  are  confident  that  with  Ellio’s  return  to  the  anchor’s  chair, Crosstalk will remain the vibrant voice of Cayman’s current events.”

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Judge orders retrial in drug trafficking case

| 10/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A Jamaican national who was convicted of drug trafficking and given an 11 year jail sentence in Summary Court had the verdict overturned and a retrial orderedFriday, following a successful appeal before a Grand Court judge. Justice Malcom Swift overturned the conviction of Dainion Cecil Henry as a result of a finding by Magistrate Grace Donalds in her decision that evidence which was not capable of being corroborated had supported other evidence against him. Henry had been found guilty in his absence in 2009 as he had escaped from George Town police station before his trial.

The 32-year-old man, who was in custody in relation to robbery and firearms offences ahead of the drugs trial when he escaped, was extradited from Jamaica in August last year. He was then jailed and began serving his sentence in relation to the drug trafficking conviction but the other charges relating to firearms and robbery were dropped by the crown last month because there was no evidence.

Following his successful appeal on Friday, the court ordered a new trial, though attorneys are expected to argue the issue of which court should hear the case this week. Henry was remanded in custody, even though the conviction was found to be unsafe, as he is still serving a sentence for escaping lawful custody.

Originally found guilty in Summary Court in November 2009, Henry was accused of supplying more than 20 cocaine pellets to a witness, who had swallowed and transported them to the Cayman Islands and who was later arrested and gave evidence against Henry.

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Drunken honeymooner sobers up in GT lock up

| 10/03/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): A drunken man’s honeymoon was interrupted Sunday after he was arrested by the RCIPS for being drunk and disorderly following the unscheduled landing of the flight he was on in Grand Cayman. The man was reportedly involved in a major argument with his new wife on a Delta Airlines flight bound for Costa Rica from Atlanta, which was forced to land at Owen Roberts International Airport on Sunday night. The man was arrested and kept in the lock-up at George Town police station but his wife was understood to have remained on board the flight to Costa Rica.

“He and his wife had an argument which turned rowdy,” an RCIPS spokesperson stated. ”His wife continued on the flight. He was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.”

Following enquiries by CNS Monday, the RCIPS have still not responded to say whether the American man is still in custody, whether any charges have been laid or if he has been released on bail or otherwise.

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Tempura JR ruling revealed

| 10/03/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): The findings of Sir Alan Moses following a closed door judicial review last year between the offices of the information commissioner and the governor over a contested report relating to Operation Tempura has been released. Although the hearing and the UK judge’s decision was at first clouded in secrecy, the ruling has now appeared on the Judicial Services website without any redactions. The judgment reveals very little more about the report or the ill-fated investigation but it is clear that the judge saw genuine public interest in the document being released. Rejecting the exemption of defamation, the judge gives the governor another shot at the exemption regarding the interference in public affairs.

Justice Moses acted as a judge of the Cayman Islands Grand Court especially to hear the case, which is related directly to at least three members of Cayman’s own judiciary and was therefore a conflict for the local bench.

At the end of the hearing, which focused heavily on the governor’s claim that he could not release the report because of potential defamation, the judge rejected that claim. However, he accepted the appeal against the commissioner’s order to release the documentsuntil  the information commissioner re-hears another exemption made by the governor’s office under Section 20 of the FOI law, which deals with the potential interference with the general course of public affairs.

In the ruling the judge notes that because the governor had presented that exemption late in the day during the process of the information commissioner's hearing, neither side had properly argued or considered that element of the law.

While the governor’s office continued to see the possible release of the report as damaging to the local judiciary, as the complaint had made serious allegations against judges and potential undue influence and interference in the ill-fated police probe, allegations which the governor said were without merit, the judge did not agree that the report could be exempt on the grounds of defamation.

The original complaint, which the governor dismissed, was made by Martin Polaine, the legal counsel and advisor on Operation Tempura. However, faced with his own legal troubles he dropped the complaint but it was then picked up by his former colleague, Martin Bridger, the senior investigating officer on the discredited internal RCIPS probe.

The dismissal of that complaint was then set out in a report which remains secret.

A freedom of information request was made by a former witness in the Operation Tempura case for that report and it was refused. Following the FOI appeals process the information commissioner ruled that the report should be released. The governor continued the fight, however, to keep the document secret, even though the broad content was leaked to the UK press and in turn the local media.

When the governor filed for a judicial review of the information commissioner’s decision, Justice Moses came to Cayman last October to hear the case, which, as a result of an application from the governor, was heard mostly behind closed doors. Although the broad outline of the judge’s decision was eventually released to the public, the ruling remained under wraps but then it recently appeared in the public domain on the judicial website.

In the judgment, Justice Moses clearly has sympathy for the release of the report.

He notes that despite the governor’s best efforts to keep the content of the report secret it had found its way into the British press. In addition, numerous stories about Operation Tempura and this issue in particular had kept the story and the public's interest in it very much alive in the local press as well. As a result, the judge found that arguments by the governor that releasing the reasons why the complaint was dismissed would be a case of rekindling flames that had died away was incorrect, as the media fire had never gone out.

However, he recognised the concerns about repeating the allegations against the judiciary, including the chief justice. The “malicious and malign would probably rejoice in the re-publication of the allegations and ignore the fact that they had been dismissed,” the judge said in a 185-page report, in which he said he had considered the facts and the law in great depth.

In his ruling the judge also pointed to the need for administrative decisions to be public because it ensures decision makers have to think through and properly justify the decisions they make.

He writes that in this case, giving the reasons for the governor’s decision would “provide satisfaction to the public that the decision maker has approached his task carefully and conscientiously in proportion to the importance of the issues he is called upon to decide.”
The judge pointed out that the allegations which had been made were not just of concern to the governor but to the wider Cayman public.

“The public, it might fairly be said, was entitled to know that the summary dismissal was the result of a conclusion reached after thorough and reasoned consideration. That that factor is of great importance finds statutory support in the Cayman Islands law itself,” the judge states in the decision.

He said that during the arguments of the hearing on both sides in this case between the governor and the commissioner the parties should have considered the balance between the issue of the public interest in ensuring a transparent and reasoned dismissal of the complaint and the dangers of any repetition of the details of the complaint.

The judge found that the commissioner had not given this enough consideration but that was mostly because the governor’s office had not properly laid their arguments out on that point. The judge found that the commissioner was the right person to work out the balance between these issues once they had been properly argued before her when he ordered the rehearing.

The acting information commissioner confirmed that the governor’s office is expected to resubmit their arguments under Section 20 before the end of April. After that, the acting commissioner will re-hear the case on that one point and make a decision to either order the release of the report once again or uphold this exemption.

Before closing his ruling, the judge also noted that during the judicial review there were indications that the local judiciary made have played a part in the dismissal of Polaine and Bridger’s complaint by the governor.

Justice Moses writes: “There was during the course of submissions some discussion as to the part the judiciary on the islands may have played by way of formal or informal requests in the decision reached by the Governor. I say no more about that. There is no evidence one way or another and it is up to the commissioner with her powers of investigation to choose whether she wishes to investigate the extent to which the views of the judiciary played or should have played a part in the decision as to withholding the reasons given for the summary dismissal of the allegations.”

See full ruling below.

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Jamaica’s opposition leader to speak at UCCI event

| 10/03/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Andrew Holness, the leader of the opposition in Jamaica and a former prime minister, will speak about his vision for change in our neighbouring country when he attends next week’s UCCI anti-corruption conference here in Cayman. Scheduled to appear on the morning of Friday 21 March on the ethical and anti-corruption framework of Jamaica, Holness, who is also a former education minister, will be on a discussion panel following a presentation by Tara Rivers, Cayman’s current education minister. Rivers will speak on the role and effectiveness of formal education in instilling values and ethics. With corruption widespread in the region. Holness pointed to the significant of the forum.

“Holding such a conference is very important to the Caribbean, as corruption continues to be of serious concern among many territories. Unless this changes the development of the region will continue to be at risk, as there can be no doubt that corruption is a hindrance to the positive development of Caribbean societies,” Holness said.

He expressed grave concerns about the effect of corruption on the stability of Jamaican society, adding that he continues to crusade for improvement to Jamaica’s ranking for the second consecutive year [on an international perceptions index] of 83 amongst 175 countries.

Dr Livingston Smith, the organiser and conference chair, said Jamaica’s leader of the opposition would add to the diversity of the views and to the enrichment of the discussion at the conference.

UCCI President Roy Bodden said that the attendance by the number of high-level political leaders as well as those in academia, civil society and the clergy underscored the importance of the upcoming event.

“Corruption is everybody’s business,” Bodden said. “I challenge the Cayman public, as well as our overseas guests, to show their support by attending the sessions offered at the conference and beyond that,to become involved in anti-corruption campaigns.”

In order to ensure that participants are able to take forward proposals coming from the conference, Dr Smith said that one of the end products of the conference would be a communique compiling key recommendations emerging at the conference.

Dr Trevor Munroe, Director of the National Integrity Action of Jamaican, will be leading arrangements for the drafting of the communique. The aim of the conference is to raise awareness of the potential for corruption and the decline in ethical standards across all the various sectors of society, and the consequent damaging effect on economies and social harmony. The conference will focus on strategies of various regional governments and organisations, public and private to raise sensitivity to these threats and how to curb and eliminate them.

For more information or to register to the conference which takes place at UCCI 19-21 March, visit www.UCCIconference.ky  All local teachers, school children, and seniors over age 65 will be admitted free of charge, but they will need to register as well.

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Range of new government jobs on Cayman Brac

| 10/03/2014 | 42 Comments

(CNS): Funding has been approved for the Police Marine Unit  to have a dedicated patrol vesselon Cayman Brac, the premier announced at a meeting on the island Thursday night. Addressing around 300 Brackers at the civic centre on his first official visit to the Sister Islands as premier, Alden McLaughlin said that this would help improve security for the island and boost employment. He also announced that one of the outcomes following a review of the Cayman Islands Fire Service has been the approval of funding for 26 new officers, including six on Cayman Brac.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, who co-hosted the meeting, announced a number of new government jobs on the island that have either been filled or will be in the near future. These included a plumber, a mechanic, a heavy equipment operator, two customs officers, two immigration posts, a road supervisor / asphalt plant operator, a labourer and an electrician.

Referring to coastal works applications for three marinas, he said that one, the Dilbert Marina next to the Alexander Hotel, which appeared to have large support from the 300 Brackers at the meeting, is complete and will be presented to caucus on Monday. The other two are with the Department of Environment, Kirkconnell said, and even though he admitted that he hadn’t looked at the environmental assessmentof the Dilbert Marine by the DoE, he said supported all three applications.

The government has just finished negotiations for 12 ships from the US Coast Guard to spend time in the Cayman Islands for “R and R” and two of those ships will come to Cayman Brac, Kirkconnell said. The ships will be here for four to five days and 120 sailors will come ashore with money to spend, he noted, adding, “We know how to welcome seamen.”

The Department of Tourism will be holding a “global meeting” on Cayman Brac on 23 March, in which 40 DoT representatives from Canada, Europe, the UK, and Western and Central US will be on the island for four days, having local interaction and taking tours, which the deputy premier described as very good exposure.

The PPM’s vision for the multi-purpose building on the Bluff, which was begun under the last government  as a hurricane shelter and became known as the “Hurricane Hilton” because of the plans to have private rooms within the shelter, is to turn that into a school. Kirkconnell said that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility demands that they complete a business case for that. However, since this cannot be completed in time for the next budget, they have decided to put that money into the roads project instead for this year but next year they will allot $500,000 to move this project forward and work with the education department regarding how to actually put in the classrooms to meet international best practices.

The road programme, he said, will continue up Peter’s Cave road and then go all the way down to the west end, in order to reach the maximum number of people.

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Road gazette not planned

| 10/03/2014 | 50 Comments

(CNS): The gazetting of the proposed East-West arterial extension appears to have been a random decision made without any assessment of the optimum location for the by-pass were it ever to be constructed. As concerns mount about the environmental and social impact of both a proposed $360 million development in North Side, which could include an 18 hole golf course, and the route of the road extension on which the developers say the project is dependent, the Department of Environment has confirmed that it has not yet been consulted on the proposed development, despite its size, or on the road direction and has not been able to find any evidence of consideration over its route.

“The DoE is not aware whether prior to it being gazetted in 2005, the current East-West corridor was subjected to any assessment to inform the optimal alignment of the road corridor with respect to transportation needs, impacts on established protected areas and the natural environment, or any other relevant considerations,” the director told CNS in response to enquiries about the environmental threats.

The gazetted road is currently set to go through not just important pristine habitat and wetlands but land owned by the National Trust, including the culturally and historically significant Mastic Reserve and Trail. Were it to stay on its currently proposed path, which appears to be an unplanned route, it would also cut through the reserve where the Trust has worked tirelessly to bring the country’s iconic blue iguana back from the brink of extinction.

With concerns that there is nothing to indicate that any kind of assessment or consideration has ever been given to the gazetted route, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said her department “strongly recommends” that before anything further happens the location has to be reconsidered.

“Before any further undertakings or approvals are given with respect to the road corridor the necessary assessments must be carried out so that the precise location of the road corridor can be rationalised,” the director stated. “Under the National Conservation Law (NCL) the National Roads authority (NRA) would be obligated to consult with the National Conservation Council prior to taking any further decisions on the road corridor and we are hopeful that this consultation will take place with the DoE even if on-going efforts to fully implement the NCL have not yet been completed.”

Following the signing of an MOU with the government and the developers over a potential public-private partnership, where they developers would pay for the $40 million road and recoup their investment in duty waivers, public concerns were heightened.

People are concerned about the cost of the road project, which would still be borne by the public purse in the long run, and the potential wider threats from the development including its proximity to the Botanic Park and the threat to the area’s water lens.

“While we understand that the proposed development will comprise a golf course as well as commercial and residential development, the DoE has not yet been provided with a master plan for the development which would confirm the precise nature and location of the various aspects of the proposed development scheme,” Ebanks-Petrie said.

“This makes it difficult to offer specific comments on potential impacts. However, given the location, scale and scope of the proposal the DoE would recommend that an EIA be undertaken to clarify the nature of the potential environmental impacts arising from the development in order to provide decision-makers with all the relevant information before any approvals are given,” she added.

Despite the size and the government heralding the proposed development as the sort of project that Cayman needs, especially in the eastern districts, the DoE confirmed that so far it has not been asked to provide any advice to Cabinet on any of the issues.

The development is likely to straddle the districts of both North Side and East End should it become the full mixed use community as described by the developers over the next thirty years. Even so, neither of the local representatives have been consulted or given any information about the proposed plans, nor have the MLAs seen the MOU.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller told CNS that it was a discourtesy that neither government or the developers had involved either himself or East End MLA Arden McLean as it was evident were this project to go ahead it would have a significant impact on the land and lives of the people they represent.

CNS requested a copy of the MOU but emails sent to government remain unanswered.

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No jail in testicle assault

| 10/03/2014 | 75 Comments

(CNS): A mother of five was handed a twelve month probation order last week despite a serious assault on her errant husband’s testicles. The East End woman pleaded guilty to assault charges following a domestic dispute with her husband in February 2012, just a few weeks after her fifth baby was born, when he returned home late. In frustration over her husband’s philandering and lack of interest in their children, including the new baby, the woman took “matters into her own hands”, a Grand Court judge observed when he heard the details of the case. Although the man suffered serious injury when his scrotum was torn from his testicles, following emergency surgery he made a full recovery.

Justice Charles Quin was lenient on the mother because of her glowing references, previous good character, her dedication to her children, her remorse and the fact that the isolated assault occurred when she was trying to care for a brand new baby as well the couple’s four other children.

The judge heard that her husband had refused to take his wife to the hospital when she went into labour and left her to make her own way home to East End after the birth and was not even home to greet her and their new born child. The court heard that the man was showing little or no interest in his family as he was having affairs with other women. Justice Quin said it was clear that the mother of five was exhausted at the time of the assault and he had a great deal of sympathy for her.

Explaining the circumstances of the case, Kenneth Ferguson, the prosecuting counsel, said that on the night/early morning in question, her husband went out and returned very late, even though she had urged him to stay home and help with the children. Instead he had disturbed them, and in frustration she assaulted him in the area she believed was to blame for the problems they were having. She grabbed his genitals during the scuffle between them, but as her husband pulled away she held on and the man’s testicles were torn and ruptured, causing a considerably more serious injury than had been intended, the court heard.

Nevertheless, given that the man had made a full recovery as a result of the surgery, Justice Quin took on board the recommendations in a social enquiry report from the Department of Rehabilitation and those of the prosecutor, Ferguson, and the woman’s defence attorney, John Furniss, that this was not a case where a custodial sentence was appropriate.

The judge said it was clear the husband was “more interested in going out with other women than looking out for his own family”, and observed that were the mother to be separated from her children, given the obvious lack of interest by the husband, this would make a bad situation worse.

With the couple now separated, the husband was also heard to owe a considerable amount of maintenance for his five children but was seeking a divorce and to have his wife deported.

Given the mother’s dedication to her five children while holding down a job to provide for them, in contrast to that of their father, he warned that her departure would be an “appalling consequence” for them in a case that was ”deeply unfortunate”, and he recommended that she was not deported. He handed down the twelve month probation order, confident that the woman would never return to the dock.

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