Archive for August 18th, 2014

No sex in jail house weddings

| 18/08/2014 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Despite the common misconception that prisoners housed at HMP Northward enjoy an easy life, including marital benefits, the prison director has confirmed that jail house weddings convey no particular advantage to prisoners and do not lead to conjugal visits. Neil Lavis said that no serving inmates at Northward are allowed private visits with their spouses and those prisoners who choose to marry while serving a sentence receive no particular benefits as a result of formalising their relationships with their partners on the outside. The prison boss told CNS that the jail sees around two wedding ceremonies per year and although prisoners have a right to marry should they wish, Lavis says he encourages most inmates to wait until they are released before tying the knot.

Lavis said that prisoners and their partners are offered counselling before marrying and he advises people to wait for obvious reasons.

Following the news that Brian Borden, who was convicted last month of the murder of Robert Mackford Bush in a gang related killing, had married his girlfriend in a wedding ceremony at the prison, Lavis confirmed that like any other prisoner Borden had a right to marry. However, he said, there would be no advantage to him as an inmate who is now convicted of murder and serving a mandatory life sentence or his new wife because of their decision to marry.

Lavis confirmed that jail house weddings follow a set format: the ceremony is performed in the prison chapel, and prisoner and spouse are able to invite up to ten friends and family to the celebration. After the ceremony the inmates can enjoy around 30 minutes socialising and eating with their guests but the entire wedding is supervised by prison officers and there are certainly no champagne corks popping.

The couple are not allowed to be alone at any timeduring the nuptials, Lavis explained, adding that there is no policy at all at HMP Northward which allows any prisoner to visit in private with a legal spouse.

Although some prisoners who have been serving life or long sentences and are likely to be released on license in the near future are allowed to visit their familiesas part of the transition to release, they are still not given any privacy visiting rights in the prison itself.

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Public Holiday dates released for 2015

| 18/08/2014 | 1 Comment

CNS): The deputy governor’s office has confirmed the official list of public holidays for next year, with the exception of the Queen’s Birthday holiday. Although the royal celebration is expected to take place on 15 June in 2015, officials said it will be confirmed later. Meanwhile, as Boxing Day next year falls on a Saturday, the corresponding public holiday will be observed on Monday 28 December, creating a long weekend for the Christmas celebrations in 2015. In total Cayman will enjoy its usual eleven public holidays spread out across the year. See full detailed list below.

 

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Teaching is not a business

| 18/08/2014 | 27 Comments

(New York Times): Today's education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology. 

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it inschool. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

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Law firm helps transfer puppies to safety

| 18/08/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS): With the local Humane Society bursting at the seams and struggling to cope with the numbers of abandoned and stray animals in Grand Cayman, a local law firm has used the cash from its charity fundraising days to send thirteen puppies and dogs rescued locally overseas to help ease the pressure. The news comes in the wake of serious concerns about packs of wild abandoned dogs roaming West Bay attacking pets in the community. Although the reports caused outrage in the community and the Department of Agriculture has said it will be dealing with the pack, the dogs involved were still roaming the neighbourhood throughout the weekend.

However, working in partnership with Canine Friends, Appleby (Cayman) is at least doing something to address what is now a serious problem, funding the relocation of the animals to Pets Alive Westchester in Elmsford, New York.

Five dogs — Declan, Douglas, Daisy, Dillon and Dexter — were sent to the no-kill shelter and are ready to start the rest of a happy life overseas, according to Tracey Goldie, a member of the Feline Friends committee, parent organisation of Canine Friends.

Alice, Horton, Jo-Jo, Mayzie McGrew and Sam-I-Am, who were born to rescued dog Brinkley about nine weeks ago and have been living in Goldie’s house, were transferred over the weekend. They were joined by Darius, Davidoff and Dimitri, who were rescued in July and were suffering badly from malnourishment.

Animal welfare is one of three primary areas that Appleby is supporting this year through its Charity Day.

“The safety and well-being of domestic animals is important to our staff,” said Bryan Hunter, Managing Partner of the Cayman office. “We are delighted to see that the donated funds have already been put to good use and that the puppies are well on their way to finding new homes thanks to our help.”

Canine Friends was established in 2012 and has since rescued 103 puppies and adult dogs from the Department of Agriculture. Canine Friends has also facilitated the transfer of over 300 dogs to no-kill centres in the United States and Canada, such as Pets Alive Westchester.

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Activist wants ministry probe

| 18/08/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A local woman currently facing charges of “uttering a false document” regarding allegations made against her by the education ministry has filed a complaint with the RCIPS against that ministry for the same offence in connection with the controversy over a doctored report. Sandra Catron has asked police to investigate the circumstances around changes made to a report on government schools, which hit the headlines recently, as she states that it is evident somebody has altered the original report and is guilty of an offence. The RCIPS have confirmed receipt of her complaint but have not yet revealed publicly if they are investigating staff at the ministry.

Following her email to Police Commissioner David Baines lodging the complaint, Catron received an emailed response from a detective chief inspector in the Financial Crime and Joint Intelligence Unit, Claudia Brady, who said the complaint was being followed up.

“This email serves as notice that the FCU is in receipt of your email sent to Commissioner Baines regarding the issue at the Ministry of Education. We will be conducting enquiries and will update you accordingly,” the officer wrote.

Catron is currently facing charges of “uttering a false document” as a result of a complaint against her filed by the education ministry regarding the controversial Nation Building Fund.

The prosecution claims that Catron issued certificates for students on NBF scholarships for a course she managed before they had completed those courses. However, Catron has denied the allegations and states that copies of certificates were given to the administrators of the fund in the premier’s office at the time at their request not to the students.

However, she said that the circumstances surrounding the recent controversy over this report are serious and believes the law must apply equally and everyone should be held to the same standard when it comes to the law.

“All evidence points to the fact that someone had purposely changed the consultant’s report so that it would mislead members of the Legislative Assembly and public. Whoever instructed or permitted this act to happen has clearly doctored a government document and attempted to pass it off as an original which is the very definition of “uttering a false document”. When it comes to enforcing the law the RCIPS and DPP appear extremely motivated to convict some persons but not others. I am a firm believer in equality under the law and wish for justice to be applied equally to all,” she said.

The issue comes out of the revelations in the Legislative Assembly during the recent Finance Committee meetings following the budget debate that a report into the state of government schools and the behaviour of both children and teachers had been sanitised. In 2012 consultant Dr David Moore was hired by the ministry to do the study but his report was heavily redacted by someone, which resulted in a doctored version being published the following year. The damning report raised numerous concerns and a comprehensive list of recommendations but this was slashed to a few points.

Various statements from those involved, including the chief officer, have still not made it clear who doctored the report, under whose instructions and why. Catron states that at the moment the situation fits the definition of the offence of uttering a false document and that government workers, like everyone else, should be treated equally.

“All civil servants should understand the term 'maladministration' and comprehend that their actionscan and will lead to legal action being taken against them. Sadly, we have allowed the wastage of government funds, poor customer service and illegal decisions to go unchallenged to for far too long,” Catron told CNS this week following her complaint to the police.

“It’s amazing that a civil servant would actually consider changing such an important document without any consideration for the illegality of it. I believe once the RCIPS carries out a proper investigation they will find out this is not the first time this has occurred. It certainly makes one wonder why we, the people, are even bothering to hire consultants and pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars when we have civil servants willing to manipulate the reports,” she added.

See related story and relevant documents here:

Authorship-of-doctored-report-partially-clarified

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Killer gets another 20 years

| 18/08/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Already serving two mandatory life sentences for murder convictions, 31-year-old Raziel Omar Jeffers was given a 20 year jail term by the chief justice on Friday for the manslaughter of Marcos Mauricio Duran. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said there were no mitigating circumstances in the case, and given Jeffers' previous offences and his lack of remorse, the sentence had to fall at the upper end of the guidelines. Despite the anticipated introduction of tariffs next year, Jeffers is looking at a lifetime behind bars. He, like other lifers, will be able to apply to the court to set a tariff to the two life sentences but the tariff is merely a starting point for the consideration of parole and not a release date.

Jeffers was not accused of pulling the trigger in this case but of masterminding a robbery and arming young 'soldiers' from the Birch Tree Hill gang for the job. Austin Jackson and Craig Johnson, who the crown said in Jeffers' trial were part of the hold-up in which Duran died, and Joshua Ebanks, who the crown said was the one who shot him, have never stood trial in regards to the fatal robbery in West Bay in March 2010. Jordan Manderson was charged and tried for his murder but was acquitted in June 2011

Jeffers, who is now serving two mandatory life sentences and one 20 year term, has continued to deny all of the allegations against him.

His local legal representation has not yet stated whether or not they will appeal this latest manslaughter conviction but they confirmed Friday that the team is already working on an appeal for his conviction for the murder of Damion Ming earlier this year.

Jeffers has already lost one case in the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal for the killing of Marcus Ebanks and the attempted murder of four other boys on the same evening outside Bonaventure boys home in West Bay in July 2009, but his team is seeking to overturn his conviction in relation to the Ming shooting based on errors in the judge’s directions to the jury. Ming's death took place in Birch Tree Hill in March 2010, just days after the Duran killing, 

As in the case against Jeffers for the killing of Duran and his conviction for the murder of Marcus Ebanks, the evidence against him in the Ming shooting was based heavily on a confession Jeffers made to his girlfriend about the three killings. In three trials the defence team was unable to break the testimony of Meagan Martinez, who has been unwavering in her account of the confession.

Her testimony regarding Jeffers' confession to her about his crimes was admissible in his trials but, under the hearsay law, would not be admissible in the trial of any person who was not present when the confession took place.

Martinez, who is the mother of Jeffers' son, is currently in a witness protection programme and is living overseas. But during the trial she raised her concerns about the extent of that protection and how long it will endure now that the crown has prosecuted all three of its cases against Jeffers.

Related stories on CNS:

Jeffers guilty of third killing (18 August 2014)

Jeffers guilty of killing Ming (3 April 2014)

Judge finds Jeffers guilty (23 February 2012)

Teen not guilty of murder (21 June 2011)

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