Archive for June 3rd, 2014

Lawyer cleared in drug case

| 03/06/2014 | 51 Comments

(CNS): After eight years facing drug charges local attorney Patrick Schmid finally walked away from court today with his name cleared. The lawyer was charged with importing cocaine after a small, empty, plastic packet that was in his bag when he entered Cayman at Owen Roberts airport in July 2006 was found to contain a minuscule trace of the drug. Schmitt was charged with drug smuggling, even though the quantity amounted to only 0.0085 of a gram, almost impossible to measure using normal instruments. Following a summary conviction in 2007 and an acquittal on appeal, a new trial was ordered, but on Tuesday morning Justice Alex Henderson directed a jury to return a not guilty verdict.

The judge pointed out that the quantity involved was too small to support a case and after many years the local man was finally cleared. Schmid, who was a former chairman of the National Drug Council and Cayman Against Substance Abuse, had always denied knowledge of any controlled drug but did not deny possession of the items in which the trace elements were found.

Nevertheless, he was found guilty in Summary Court of importing the trace element of cocaine and 0.134 of a gram of methamphetamine in a pill bottle. After convicting the lawyer, Magistrate Grace Donalds fined him $700 in April 2007.

Later that year, however, former Grand Court judge, Priya Levers, sitting as a Court of Appeal found the conviction unsafe and unsatisfactory. Levers said there were inconsistencies in the evidence of the two customs officers and that the magistrate was wrong to find that the defendant's nonchalant and disinterested approach when question at the airport was supportive of guilt, and that she had misdirected herself about the burden on proof.

Despite allowing his appeal and quashing the conviction, Levers ordered a retrial, which was originally scheduled for 2011, despite efforts on the part of Schmid’s attorneys to have the charges dropped.

Schmid failed to answer bail but eventually voluntarily returned earlier this year to face the proceedings this week, where he was represented by Guy Dilliway-Parry from Priestleys.

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Cops seize ganja and arrest local man in drug bust

| 03/06/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A 47-year-old Caymanian has been arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a controlled drug, possession with intent to supply a controlled drug and consumption of a controlled drug following a drug bust at an East End address last week. An RCIPS spokesperson said that officers from the Drugs & Serious Crimes Task Force, the K-9 Unit, the Uniform Support Group and the Marine Unit conducted an operation in the district on Friday where a large quantity of ganja was recovered, though police officials have not indicated the amount. During the drug bust a 47-year-old was taken into custody and interviewed.

The man has since been bailed to return to the police station at a later date as enquiries continue.

“The misuse of controlled drugs directly impacts the safety and wellbeing of those living here, and the RCIPS will continue to focus its resources on those persons who are actively engaged in the supply of drugs within our islands,” said Superintendent Robert Scotland who is in charge of specialist operations.

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Cayman riders first in show jumping competition

| 03/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CIEF): Once a year the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation plays host to the best youth show jumpers in the Caribbean for the second round of the Caribbean Equestrian Federation’s Junior Show Jumping Competition. In the first round of the competition hosted by Barbados in January 2014, the Cayman Team were represented by Isabelle Smith and Madeleine Aquart, both new starters in the team. They performed well and finished third. The team for the Cayman competition was picked by trial earlier in the season and the riders winning the right to represent Cayman were Isabelle Smith in the under 16 category and Hannah Fowler in the under 14 category. For Fowler it would be the first time riding for the team.

With the competition set for 10 and 11 May, the Cayman Team welcomed competitors from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

The first day of competition saw all riders in the under 16 category go clear with Cayman’s Smith posting the fastest time of the four. Fowler got off to a shaky start posting 8 faults leaving Hannah Deleon of Jamaica out front, the only rider to go clear in the first round. However in round 2, Deleon was the only under 14 rider to post faults, collecting 8 in the field, with her competitors all posting clear rounds. The under 16s remained pretty tight with only Amber Thompson of Jamaica collecting four faults in her round.

At the end of the first day, the teams were pretty well bunched together with Barbados out front with four faults and Jamaica and Cayman in joint second on eight faults with Trinidad bringing up the rear on 13 faults. However, as all show jumpers are fond of saying, ‘anything can happen’ and the third round on Sunday morning was to  prove this true by shaking up the pack and turning things upside down.

It was the turn of the under 14s to go first on Sunday morning and only Fowler, now settled in her stride, would go clear.  The rest of the teams collected a host of field and time faults. Jamaica picked up 11, Trinidad 15 and Barbados a costly 17. This thrust Cayman into the lead going into the final round.

All four riders in the under 16 category posted clear rounds putting the pressure on their teammates in the under 14s to follow their lead.

All four went clear with Barbados and Cayman collecting time faults but Cayman’s lead by this time was so well established that they clinched the title nevertheless. A delighted Fowler and Smith took the First Place Award for the Cayman Team with a total of 13 faults, with Jamaica in second place on 19 faults, Barbados in third on 23 faults and Trinidad and Tobago in fourth on 28 faults.

In the individual competitions, Fowler placed first in the under 14s and Smith placed second in the under 16s, which was a tough category with 3 of the 4 riders finishing on 4 faults and Smith missing out on the top spot by less than 3 seconds. Cayman’s success bodes well for the rest of the competition.

Jenna Boucher, who had kindly loaned her horse, Katrina, to the competition, was awarded a ‘Clear Round Horse’ Award as Katrina was only the only horse in the competition to go clear all four rounds.

Overall, these result put Cayman in joint first place with Barbados so far for the year. The next round of the competition is in September in Trinidad, with the fourth leg in Jamaica in November rounding out the series.

The CIEF was delighted to partner with a number of sponsors for 2014, both new and old: Gold Sponsors, Maples and Calder and Deutsche Bank were joined by Silver Sponsors Butterfield Bank, Cayman National Bank, Genesis Trust and Corporate Services Ltd.,  Stepping Stones and a host of Bronze Sponsors.

“We were so pleased that so many corporate sponsors came on board this year to sponsor this event. We were not only able to fund the costs of the competition with their donations but we were also able to build a fabulous jump course with nearly every jump sponsored by a company and sporting their company logo,” said Sharon Hinds, President of CIEF. “We are also very grateful for the support of the CI Olympic Committee this season and wanted to honour that support with an ‘Olympic’ jump built for them. These events are products of so many people and parts and we are grateful to all our sponsors, parents, volunteers, host families and coaches who made this event such a successful one.”

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McTaggart admits mistakes in ‘whistleblowing fiasco’

| 03/06/2014 | 32 Comments

(CNS): George Town MLA Roy McTaggart has admitted that he made mistakes and had received a “political flogging” over what he described as the "whistleblowing fiasco" in connection with a report by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC). McTaggart was referring to a motion rejected by government during a Legislative Assembly meeting in Cayman Brac the last time parliamentarians met. He said he had proposed a motion in the OCC oversight committee requesting that the chair, Ezzard Miller, draft a motion for the LA but he misunderstood how that motion would have developed. Despite sitting on the government benches, the C4C member also said he didn’t know at the time that government was already working on legislation to protect whistleblowers.

Speaking during the budget debate in the LA on Monday, McTaggart claimed the impetus for the motion, which he had proposed, didn’t emanated from him but was at the direction of the committee's chair. McTaggart admitted that the minutes reflected that the members of the committee had invited Miller to draft a motion and he had proposed it but he said that he did not expect the North Side member to table the motion the way he had.

The government had rejected the motion that was brought by Miller to the LA asking government to adopt recommendations made by the complaints commissioner on how best to encourage and protect whistleblowers in public office. Despite showing his support for the motion in the committee meeting, once in the LA McTaggart voted ‘no’.

Speaking about the events and the subsequent revelaitons of the minutes on CNS, McTaggart said he was trying to be as truthful as possible but he was not aware that Miller had planned to move the motion when he laid the report as the C4C member said he had expected to see some notification and discussion about the proposed motion.

Claiming that he was unaware at the time that the government of which he is a member was in the “advanced stages of drawing up whistleblowing legislation” when the motion appeared before the House, McTaggart said it no longer made sense, which is why he voted against it though his individual vote would have made no difference to the outcome.

However, acknowledging that things had gone awry, McTaggart said, “I have learned from the experience and will do things different next time around,” adding that it was never his intention to lie.

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Hope on horizon for ‘lifers’

| 03/06/2014 | 69 Comments

(CNS): Inmates at HMP Northward serving life sentences have new hope of an alternative future to dying behind bars as Cayman moves into a more modern regime regarding the punishment of those who are convicted of murder. The government is currently working on a conditional release law which will see prisoners who receive a life sentence for murder offered a tariff for a minimum period in jail before they can go before the parole board and begin working towards a release date. Not only compatible with the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, giving lifers hope of a potential release date gives the prison authorities a carrot to use to help in the management of prisoners handed life sentences.

In the interim, some inmates who have already served more than 25 years in jail are being transitionedtowards release on licence under the prisons law. Three inmates serving life sentences will be released over the next 18 months following the release of Blandford Lowell Dixon last year and the more recent deportation of another unidentified prisoner.

Prisons Director Neil Lavis told CNS recently that the prison is working hard to create transition programmes for prisoners who will inevitably be released over the coming years. He explained that the process of releasing convicted killers will be phased and very closely supervised. The phased release into the community for lifers will follow the same process as that already in place for other prisoners serving long sentences.

The gradual introduction of a new regime for lifers does not mean that all convicted killers will one day be released.

Each case will be judged on its own merits. With the introduction of tariffs, judges will be able to give a minimum period of time that a person convicted of murder must serve before they can be considered for parole. Whether that is 20, 30 or even 50 years will be in the hands of the court but it will be the prison service, the parole board and the Department for Community Rehabilitation who will manage the prisoners’ futures once they have served the minimum terms ordered by the courts.

The legislation, which is listed on the government’s legislative agenda for 2014/15, is still in the drafting stage and is not expected to come before parliament much before the end of this year. But that doesn’t mean the prison is not already working on plans for those serving life sentences, especially prisoners who have been in jail for more than twenty years.

However, in a case that is not easily explained from government’s perspective, lawyers representing Tareeq Rickets, who was convicted of murdering Jackson Rainford in a jealousy motivated shooting in August 2013, have applied for a tariff. The case is currently set to be heard by the Court of Appeal this summer and the crown is fighting the application, even though the authorities are working on legislation which will provide a tariff system for all convicted killers – including Ricketts.

The lifers who are currently being transitioned towards release are on a phased plan, which will see them go into the community for longer and longer periods while they are learning to readjust to life back on the streets after decades of institutionalization. The parole board has confirmed that its primary consideration in all cases being considered for release will be risk.

The three inmates currently being considered for release, which has been sanctioned by the governor, will be subject to licence conditions, such as a curfew and regular meetings to aid their rehabilitation. Their release will be very closely monitored, officials stated, and if the conditions are broken the individuals can be recalled to prison with immediate effect.

According to updated information from prison officials, there are 18 men in HMP Northward serving life sentences for murder and one man is serving a life sentence for a double rape.

Since Blandford Dixon was released on license in 2013, the two men convicted of murder with him, his brother Linsel Dixon and Owen Bruce, are understood to be two of the three men currently on the phased release programme. The three men were convicted of killing Charles Evans Rankine, the Dixon brothers' step-father, and so far they have served some 28 years behind bars.

McCandy Thomas has served 24 years after his conviction for the murder 77-year-old Ratmir Pavlovic during a robbery at the jewellery store he owned in March 1990. William Powell, who has served 28 years, was sentenced to be hanged for the killing of Gaynell and Charles Ebanks in 1986, which was commuted to life in prison after the UK abolished the death penalty. It is understood that one of these men has been deported and the other is one of the three inmates going through the phased release.

Meanwhile, George Roper has also applied for release, having served some 24 years of his life sentence after he was convicted, along with Steve Manderson, who has served 21 years, for the murder of a prison employee.

The rest of the men who are serving mandatory life sentences who have no tariffs or potential release dates have all served considerably less time.

Brian Powell and Kurt Ebanks, who were remanded in 2000 and convicted in 2001, have both served 14 years for the murder of Curtis Seymour. John Gouldbourne, who was remanded in 2004 and convicted in 2006 when he was 55 years old, has served ten years of his life sentence for the brutal murder of Moreen Williams at the home they shared in West Bay. Trevino Bodden, who was remanded and convicted in 2007, has served seven years for the murder of brothers Brenard Scott and Renold Pearson in East End in November 2006.

Larry Ricketts and Kirkland Henry were jailed on remand in 2008 and convicted of the shocking rape and murder of Estella Scott Roberts in 2010. Randy Martin was also convicted of murder in 2010 after he killed Sabrina Schirn when he was working at the old prison farm in East End, while he was already serving a sentence for violence.

Leonard Ebanks is another one of Cayman’s most recent lifers, having been convicted in September 2011 for the shooting of Tyrone Ebanks in a gang related killing. Chakane Jamelle "CJ" Scott,  Devon Anglin and Razial Jeffers were all convicted of murder in 2012 for various gang related killings.

Tareeq Rickets has appealed his mandatory life sentence and is hoping the appeal court will speed the process for tariffs and set a minimum sentence that would provide for his eventual release at a future date.

Meanwhile, Chad Anlgin was the latest Caymanians to be sentenced to life last month for the murder of Swiss banker Fredric Bise. Jeffrey Barnes is the only inmate serving a life sentence for a crime other than murder after Grand Court judge Justice Charles Quin handed him a life sentence after he was convicted on two separate cases of rape.
 

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Health city undertakes specialist procedure

| 03/06/2014 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Updated — The new East End hospital opened by leading international cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty has undertaken its first electrophysiology study (EPS) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) on a patient from Trinidad and Tobago. Hospital officials said patients needing this type of medical treatment would previously have had to go to the United States but now Cayman is able to offer this specialist procedure to patients across the region. The state-of-the-art 140-bed medical facility, which has been open for three months, is offering high level medical expertise and officials have now confirmed that over 100 patients have passed through the doors.

While expectations are still running high that Health City Cayman Islands will make a significant contribution to the economy of East End and kick start medical tourism, the hospital is awaiting specialist accreditation which will allow it to attract patients from North America and it is not clear when the numbers of patients will begin to make an impact. However officials stated Tuesday that patient numbers have been steadily increasing.

At present the hospital is dependent on regional and local patients and is one of the few facilities within the region wheresuch procedures as the electrophysiology study (EPS) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) can be carried out.

Officials from the facility said that for every ten to fifteen cardiac centres in the world, only one centre will perform this procedure, “a testament to the high level of expertise found at Health City Cayman Islands.”

Ideal for neighbouring Caribbean islands, patients are now able to shorten their travel time for tertiary care, and avoid the high cost of travel and visa requirements for equivalent care within the United States or elsewhere, the hospital stated. Officials did not state how the patient came from Trinidad as airlift poses a problem for patients from the region as some will still need to go via the US to get to Cayman.

Nevertheless, the hospital is focused on becoming the go to place in the Caribbean and central America for cardiac treatment.

“We believe Health City’s ability to offer such a highly specialised procedure will be of great benefit to Cayman residents having cardiacrhythm disorders (palpitations) because they now do not need to go through the trouble and expense of going overseas for such a procedure. Our international patients can also benefit from this new procedure, receiving treatment in a world class destination, providing a pleasurable and holistic recovery process,” Dr Ravi Kishore, Chief Interventional Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at Health City Cayman Islands, who performed the procedure said.

He explained why such a course of action may be necessary for a patient in a release on Monday:

“An EPS is a procedure used to evaluate the electrical conduction system of the heart. Patients might be referred for an EPS because they may be experiencing abnormal electrical impulses through their heart: it may be beating too fast, slow, or irregularly. The aim of an electrophysiology study is to analyse the cause of the abnormal heart rhythm and guide any further treatment options,” he said.

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Brac committee to work on ToRs for marina EIA

| 03/06/2014 | 26 Comments

(CNS): Government has appointed an Environmental Oversight Committee for Cayman Brac and its first job will be to work on the controversial proposal for a marina at Salt Water Pond. Cabinet has also appointed two more people to the Development Control Board to enable a quorum to be achieved without conflict of interest, government officials said in a release on Monday. This application is just one of three proposals for marinas on the Brac. The committee and the control board will be involved in defining the terms of reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment that must be undertaken before the project can be considered.

The Environmental Oversight Committee comprises District Administration Chief Officer Stran Bodden, Deputy District Commissioner Mark Tibbetts, the Directors of Planning and Environment respectively, along with Burnard Tibbetts, Cornel Burke and Kenny Ryan. 

Audley Scott and Yvonne Walton have been appointed as interim members of the control board.

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