Archive for June 16th, 2014

Dump runoff levels ‘safe’

| 16/06/2014 | 60 Comments

(CNS): Despite widespread concerns that the George Town landfill is leaching unsafe levels of pollutants into the North Sound, the head of the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) has said this is not the case. Answering questions in Finance Committee last week, Roydell Carter said the latest results from tests conducted in the US on the leaching from the dump fall well within the “established safe parameters", and he assured MLAs that the results do not support the claim that there is noxious waste leaching into North Sound. The minister with responsibility for the dump admitted that there had been serious mismanagement of equipment in the DEH and Department of Vehicle & Equipment Services and said people would be held accountable.

With the landfill a critical issue in the Ministry of Health, Sports, Youth, and Culture, Minister Osbourne Bodden and the DEH director fielded many questions from the committee, especially from the opposition benches, about the current situation and future plans.

Bodden admitted a catalogue of problems regarding poor maintenance and mismanagement of major equipment but he committed to addressing these past issues going forward. He said equipment had been broken for some time, and with no budget to replace it the department was force to spend public cash hiring the relevant machines. The minister agreed with East End MLA Arden McLean, as he probed about what was happening, that the cause was a failure of staff to stick to proper maintenance schedules.

Bodden said he was going to make sure that these questions would not be asked again in the next Finance Committee as he revealed the DEH was hiring a fleet manager with knowledge of equipment to ensure that things changed.

“It will not be business as usual,” he said as he emphasized the need to properly take care of equipment that is used in such a stressful environment. He pointed out that many of the problems in the current collection and management of waste would be addressed in the forthcoming policy and subsequent tender for a new system, but said that in the meantime the dump could not be left in abeyance; rubbish still had to be properly managed.

He noted that the lack of funds in the budget to keep coving the landfill had contributed to the recent fire and that this was a false economy. Bodden made it clear that there were many problems with management of waste in general as well as with the management of equipment and he was now aware of what they all were, which was why it was so important to get the future plan right. He said he was learning nothing new from the issues being raised about the dump problems and the criticism coming from the opposition benches.

“We have a plan moving forward to correct it all and manage it the best way we can,” he told the committee. In the meantime, he said, equipment is expected in August and September to replace the broken down machines and the department has budgeted for marl to keep the dump covered to reduce the risk of further fires.

Although the almost $3.2 million line item for managing garbage was passed by the committee, the opposition leader registered his objection to the more than $2 million the ministry was receiving as part of a $4.6 million equity injection to cover the cost of the EIA for the dump as well as for the much need machinery. McKeeva Bush said there were more than enough reports on the dump and government did not need to spend any more money on them.

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BT man cleared of rape

| 16/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Shane Connor (36) walked away from court on Friday a free man following his acquittal on a rape charge by a jury after a two week trial. Connor had denied raping a woman who claimed she had been drugged and found herself at his home where he had sexual intercourse with her against her will. She described being in a dream-like state, almost paralyzed and unable to stop Connor during the sex act, in which she said he moved her into several different positions but she had repeatedly asked him to stop. However, Connor denied forcing himself, saying they had consensual sex and she did not appear to be intoxicated.

In what was a very emotional and sensitive testimony, the complainant said she could not remember all the details of the allegedrape, including how she got to Connor’s house. She recalled arriving there and being in her car and urinating on herself. She said she was not in control of her body but Connor had led her inside to his bedroom and had sex with her, but feeling powerless, she said she was unable to stop him. She later concluded that she had been drugged as she had only consumed two beers and two shots of Hennessey during the evening at the bar where she met the defendant.

Connor, however, said the woman had chosen to drive him to his home in her own car after they had met up in the bar. She had parked at the back of the property in Savannah after asking if he had nosey neighbours. He said they had become intimate when they both got out of the car outside and that’s when he realized she had wet herself but he said she did not appear intoxicated. He said she just removed her clothes and threw them in the car.

Giving evidence on his own behalf in answer to the charges, Connor told the court the woman went willingly into the house with him and into his bedroom where she removed her underwear. Given what he said was an open invitation by a woman he had known for many years and whom he found attractive, he went ahead. He said they had sex in different positions, which he did not have to force her to take, and she had never said ‘no’ or asked him to stop during the intercourse. He said, however, that when he asked her to engage in oral sex she refused, so that did not happen.

Connor said there was nothing that would have suggested to him she was not consenting. He said that after the act they spoke and exchanged numbers and when she left he said he would callher to make sure she got home safely, which he did, and although he did not get through, the phone records reveal Connor's attempts to call the woman. Telephone evidence also confirmed that he had called her the next day as well and the two had exchanged text messages.

CCTV footage also showed that they had left the bar in George Town together before heading to Connor’s house, despite the complainant’s insistence that she would never have gone willingly with him and was insistent she did not leave with Connor.

The court also heard that the woman had first made the claim that she believed she had been drugged and raped more than a week after the event, when another friend had called her saying she had heard she had been with and had sex with Connor.

Connor’s defence team argued throughout the trial that the incident was consensual and it was only when people began to find out that the woman began making claims about being drugged and raped as it may impact her own existing relationship.

The defence convinced six of the seven jurors that there was enough reasonable doubt about the events and inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence to allow Connor to walk free.

Having been arrested in the wake of a separate allegation in March 2012, Connor served almost two years on remand before he was bailed after the complainant in the first case withdrew her allegation on the morning of a scheduled trial in February of this year.

Connor has no previous convictions for sex offences and protested his innocence from the beginning. Following the majority six to one verdict on his acquittal, Connor said he was truly grateful to his legal defence team at Stenning and Associates for all their hard work.

“Justice has been done after a long period of time and I can now finally move forward with my life,” Connor told CNS.

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Caymanians get royal gongs for Queen’s Birthday

| 16/06/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): The former and first chair of the Cayman Islands Standards in Public Life Committee, Karin Thompson is named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) and local business man Leonard Hew receive the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the latest batch of royal gongs. The awards for Thompson and Hew were announced this weekend as part of the Queen’s Birthday celebrations. Officials said Thompson was awarded for her work in the protection of children and Hew for his behind-the-scenes efforts to build local sporting capacity. The New Year’s royal honourees received their medals during the Queen's birthday parade celebrations on Saturday.

Cayman marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 88th birthday with a parade of senior uniformed services officers, youth service organisations and the police band in front of the Legislative Assembly.

New Year’s Honours were presented to Dr Saratchandra (Sarath) de Alwis-Seneviratne and Thomas M. Wood by Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick, who also presented Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards to Jose Ardila, Mia Burke and Allison McDonald. The Duke of Edinburgh award scheme offers bronze, silver and gold awards to young people aged 14-24 years. 

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