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‘Human Rights’ for murderers?

| 28/10/2014 | 25 Comments

‘Human Rights’ are getting in the way of common sense again. Over the last few years, there has been much debate about the suggestion that those convicted of murder should at some stage in the future be considered for release from prison and reintegration into society.

The most commonly articulated reaction to this is a strong disapproval and demand that ‘life should mean life’, or even a suggestion of a return to the death penalty. Frequently those commenting ask the not unreasonable question ‘What about the victim?’  Blame is regularly laid at the feet of ‘Human Rights’ for demanding the light sentencing of criminals. In the last week this issue has also been discussed in the Legislative Assembly and often these opinions have been articulated there too.

This important debate is sometimes devalued by a fundamental misunderstanding of what the offence of murder entails. Murder is not just one crime – it covers the widest range of offences – and not all of them are of equal seriousness.

If an individual breaks into a house at night and kills several members of the same family that is murder, as is the sadistic killing of a child for sexual gratification, a contract killing, or a terrorist outrage. Few people would suggest that crimes of this nature do not deserve amongst the most severe sentences that society has the power to inflict.

However, the mercy-killing of a loved spouse in agony with terminal cancer who asks ‘Please help me to die’ is also murder. And the man who, defending his family from violence, uses too much force and kills an armed attacker is also a murderer. Again, no rational person would begin to suggest that these individuals should be sentenced in the same way as child murderers and terrorists. A number of people might suggest neither should even go to prison.

Any sentencing regime must take into account all the circumstances of an offence, the victim and the offender – not just the name by which lawyers call it, which may be very different from what the public perceive it to be. Of course consideration must be given to the rights of the victim and their family – ‘Human Rights’ demands that too. But anything that removes the discretion of a sentencing judge to assess the seriousness of a case is likely to result in injustice.

So have the debate. Express your strongly-held and important views. But don’t just blame ‘Human Rights’ – they’re not as far removed from common sense as you might think.

*The Human Rights Commission and the former Human Rights Committee have both reviewed these issues in greater technical detail and their reports can be found on the Commission’s website www.humanrightscommission.ky

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The Big Man Break

| 27/10/2014 | 23 Comments

The Criminal Procedure Code of the Cayman Islands sets out offences which allow the police to arrest people without a warrant and those crimes which are not. It is a useful guide for those UK policemen hell bent on arresting a judge if the government is to avoid paying out millions of dollars. Nearly all offences are in fact arrestable but for a few exceptions.

Public officials arrested for fraud, neglect of official duty or disobedience of lawful duty are specially exempted from arrest and the public humiliation that other citizens have to regularly suffer.

Some public officials are arrested and in one unfortunate incident a policeman was found thereafter hanging from a tree Wilderness Drive. Others may end up on a yacht in the North Sound waiting for their summons to arrive.

There is no official policy on apology or notice of innocence or compensation if you are found innocent after a time before the courts. You have to return to society and endure whispers and the cutting of eyes as you pass by. Just this week a young man who was accused of complicity in murder and his bail objected to by the DPP suddenly found that he was discharged from the Grand Court and all charges dropped. This is also true for a traffic charge or minor offence. This is a frequent occurrence that should be studied to avoid repetition. More effort has to go into decisions on who is to be charged.

The Premier and Minister of Home Affairs has been silent on these matters that affect some of the people and their family that will have a decision at the ballot box.

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Port struggles with debt

| 23/10/2014 | 94 Comments

(CNS): Although the Port Authority, one of Cayman’s most important statutory authorities, has increased its revenue and cut expenses, it struggles with long term debt and funds for capital investment. Moving from a loss of $1.8 million in 2010, according to a report from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the authority cleared over half a million dollars at the end of the 2012 fiscal year but its debt liabilities and a need to replace and repair equipment is causing the port problems. The auditor also noted some concerns about the management at the port that is making matters worse, such as mounting legal fees to fight FOI requests at the direction of the board and the mismanagement of crane repairs.

The port is making annual debt payments of some $2 million and spent $1.2 million during 2012 as a result of poor project management and assessment of damaged equipment.

The OAG also reported that at the end of June 2012, the port’s liabilities exceeded its assets by more than $3.5 million. In light of this as well as debt payments, a reduced volume of business and limited room for fee increases, Alastair Swarbrick has raised concerns about the port being able to continue operating without financial support from government in the future. 

In addition to the port’s financial troubles, there were also a number of governance problems, and Swarbrick qualified his opinion on the port’s 2012 accounts. He said this was because of a number of problems over conflicts and related party transactions. Swarbrick’s team found that the authority did not have the systems and practices in place for senior management and board director to comply with good governance principles.

He raised a number of other concerns, including the port’s failure to comply with its own regulations because of a deal with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association’s regulations preventing fee increases.

The report pointed to failures in the project management of the refurbishment of cranes. A failure to properly analyze the situation relating to problems with two cranes led to costly mistakes. Another $500,000 spent on consultants relating to the port development, which the port had recorded as an asset, were reclassified as an expense, the auditor explained. The money was wasted after the government was forced by the UK to abandon previous attempts at finding a developer in less orthodox ways and follow the process set out in the law, and so could not be claimed by the port as an asset.

On top of the various other governance issues he noted, such as ineffective inventory management practices leading to risks of loss or fraud, a lack of sound monthly financial analysis, the writing off of some assets without board approval and a failure to monitor employee time, Swarbrick also highlighted the port’s bill for lawyers.

The authority spent over $100k in 2012 and was at the time planning to spend even more in the 2013 fiscal year on legal advice, compared to just $27,000 in 2011. The auditors found that with the exception of a claim for damages, the money was going on lawyers to stop documents being released under the freedom of information law at the direction of the port’s board. Swarbrick said he was taking a closer look at that during the auditing of the port’s accounts for 2013 because much of the issue would impact that year, but he warned that undertaking such action given the state of the port’s finance was a concern.

Related articles:

$21m top up keeps CAL flying

Key authorities in trouble

CIG accounts mess rolls on

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Clock ticking on daylight saving discussion

| 22/10/2014 | 102 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Commerce and Investment is making a final appeal to the public to complete the government’s survey on the introduction of daylight saving time in the Cayman Islands. The on-line questionnaire will close at the end of this month and people are being urged to express their opinion on whether Cayman should adopt the practice of adjusting clocks one hour forward during the summer and back again in the fall in order to keep Cayman in time step with Miami and New York year-round. It is believed that by keeping in time with the US east coast there will be benefits for the cruise and overnight tourist industry, as well as the offshore financial services sector. The survey takes about three minutes to complete.

Link to the survey

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Guilty plea to lesser offence

| 22/10/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): On the second day of her trial in Grand Court on Cayman Brac, Katie Jo Powell (26) pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on the basis of excessive self-defence, a third charge added to her indictment. Powell had been charged with the attempted murder of Yves Anthony De la Torre (29) in the early hours of Saturday 20 April 2013, with the alternative charge of wounding with intent. However, after prosecutor Neil Kumar wrapped up the crown’s case against her, which included the dramatic last minute additional evidence of a video recording the victim had made of himself after Powell had stabbed him, he said the proposed course of a guilty plea to the new charge, which had been suggested by the defence, was acceptable to the director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Justice Charles Quin told the defendant that this was a “very sensible approach”. It was clear that she had stabbed him but, according to the medical report, the injuries were not serious or permanent and she was not 100 per cent to blame, the judge said.

He also commended the complainant, De la Torre, for taking a “mature view” by agreeing to this, noting the inconsistencies in his testimony. Although he was not in court, Justice Quin said he hoped that he would put this incident behind him.

“Everyone had had too much alcohol,” the judge said, in light of the evidence given by the victim, the defendant and the friends she had been out with that night.

Referring to De la Torre’s claims during his testimony Monday that he had been harassed by the police on Cayman Brac since he had moved to the island and that the officer who dropped him off at Powell’s house that night instead of Spot Bay, where he wanted to go, had been somehow complicit in the stabbing, the judge noted that De la Torre was very angry with the local police but said the investigating officer, PC Julian Durrant, had behaved impeccably and also commended the office of the DPP.

Although Powell did not take the stand, the statement she made to the police was read in court, in which she claimed that when she got home from the bar that night, she saw her friend Michelle Hunter sitting down with De la Torrebehind the house and they were both naked. She and her friend, Janna Parchment, found Hunter’s skinny jeans and helped her put them on. She told De la Torre to leave and picked up a knife from the kitchen.

Powell told police that De la Torre had “come at her” twice to get the knife from her but after that she had blacked out because she was drunk. When asked by the police, she said she did not know she stabbed him until the next day. When she was formally charged for attempted murder on 29 July 2013, she had stated that she was “only trying to defend myself”.

After hearing Powell’s statements, the judge watched a 10-minute video recording that De la Torre had made on his phone as he walked, bleeding from multiple stab wounds, from Powell’s home on the north west of Cayman Brac, next to Tip Top Boutique, to his mother’s apartment in Danzler Crescent on the south side. The video, which the victim had told the court about when he gave evidence Monday, was only given to the police that day, the 20 October, at 4:15pm after the court had adjourned for the day.

De la Torre, who said during his testimony that he has been seeing a psychiatrist since he was stabbed, was not in court Tuesday but his mother sobbed as she listened to the recording. “I want to go home; I want to go to Hawaii,” the victim said in the video.

Sentencing was set for Wednesday 17 December and the judge ordered a social inquiry report regarding the defendant as well as a victim impact report, which was requested by the crown.

Related article on CNS:

Stabbing trial opens on Brac

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Stabbing trial opens on Brac

| 21/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The prosecution witnesses called so far in the trial of Katie Jo Powell (26) for the attempted murder of Yves Anthony De la Torre (29) have given the court wildly different accounts of what happened in the early hours of 20 April 2013, when the victim was stabbed in the neck, face, chest and both hands. The narrative given by the first four witnesses, all friends of the defendant, were very similar, but did not support the crown’s case that Powell attacked the victim and tried to kill him. It was “not her personality”, said one of the young women called by prosecutor Neil Kumar. De la Torre, the crown’s key witness, maintained that none of the four friends were there when he was stabbed, and said he believed he was going to die that night.

In the Grand Court trial, which began on Monday on Cayman Brac, Kerry Christian, Janice Webb and Amanda Jacobs all testified that they had been out to the Coral Isle Club, located on the south side of the island, on the night of Friday 19 April 2013 and stayed until after the bar closed at 2:00 Saturday morning. Michelle Hunter was also at the bar, Christian said, talking to a guy from Grand Cayman, and “the tattoo boy” (De la Torre).

Janna Parchment asked if they could give her a ride home in the white van driven by Webb and also if they could pick up Powell and her boyfriend, Randy Dixon, who were outside Big Daddy’s liquor store, which is just across the road.

By everyone’s account, Dixon was very drunk. Jacobs said that he had passed out on the ground outside Big Daddy’s. She got out to help him into the car because he couldn’t walk properly.

When they got to the house where Powell was living at the time, next to Tip Top Boutique and opposite the West End Primary School, Christian said she saw two people at the back of the house and told Webb it looked like Hunter and “the tattoo fella”.

Powell, Dixon and Parchment all got out, according to the friends’ account. Jacobs also got out of the van to help Dixon into the house and, she told the court, she saw Michelle Hunter sitting on a seat with her head in her hand next to De la Torre. She did not look sober and was “not completely here”, Jacobs said. She asked Hunter if she was OK and Hunter mumbled a reply, but Webb, who was still in the van, honked the car horn to indicate that she was leaving, and they and Christian left.

In her evidence, Parchment added the detail, not mentioned by the others, that De la Torre and Hunter were both naked. When they asked Hunter, who was “completely out of it”, whathad happened, she didn’t reply but De la Torre said that they had “just got through having sex”, Parchment said. She and Powell found Hunter’s clothes, helped her put them back on and got her into the house.

Powell asked De la Torre to leave, she said, but he just laughed and said he wasn’t doing anything wrong and he was going to stay there that night.

“What the fxxx are you still doing in my yard? Get the fxxx out of my yard!” Powell yelled at him, according to Parchment, who maintained that between them she and Powell told De la Torre to leave that night “about a hundred times”.

Powell then picked up a knife “to scare him off”, said Parchment, who, although she did not actually see this, said she “heard the knife move off the table”. She said that De la Torre grabbed Powell’s hand to try to pry the knife away from her, but she jerked it away.

At this point she went back inside the house to see what Dixon was doing because he was “making a noise”. When she came back outside she saw that De la Torre had gripped Powell’s arms and she was trying to shove him away. They told him again to leave and this time he did, Parchment said, but when asked by the prosecution, said she did not see any blood on him at that time.

They did not call the police because they did not have any credit on their phones, she said. After this incident she went home but later Powell messaged her to say that someone was trying to break into the house. However, it turned out that it was not De la Torre but Hunter, who was somehow outside again.

De la Torre gave a very different account. After his friend Aaron was arrested for drinking and driving on the way home from Barracudas bar, where they gone after they left the Coral Isle, he and Hunter, who had been passed out in the back seat, were stranded. He could only make phone calls where there was Wi-Fi as his phone was registered in the US and so could not call anyone for help.

He said they were trying to get to Spot Bay. Aaron, he said, had been taken away in one police car but an officer in the second police car offered to drive them there. However, instead of doing so, De la Torre said, he dropped them off in front of Powell’s house, possibly because she and Hunter were friends. However, De la Torre did not want to be there, he said, because he and Dixon had issues.

He said Hunter started to stumble towards the house. A black car pulled up with no lights on, he told the court, and someone asked for a cigarette. He walked towards the car because he thought he had some left but it was just an empty packet in his pocket. But as he was walking away, he heard the car door slam and saw Powell running at him screaming about him “ratting on her baby daddy (Dixon) and something to do with her brother”, De la Torre said.

Powell grabbed his shirt, he said, and told him that if he didn’t get out she would stab him. As he walked away, De la Torre said he was stabbed in the neck. As he turned left, she stabbed him in the left side of the chest, he said. Powell then slashed his face as she was swinging the knife upwards, he told the court. He grabbed the knife and the whole of his thumb was cut.

Bleeding from the wounds, he started walking towards his mother’s house on the south side in Danzler Crescent, he said. On the way he passed out twice, once at Tortuga Liquor store and once at Big Daddy’s. Because he thought he was going to die, he recorded what had happened to him on his phone as he walked, he said.

De la Torre told the court that he started walking between 11:30 pm Friday night and midnight and reached his mother’s house at about 4:30 Saturday morning, where his mother and grandmother tended his wounds and called 911.

When asked by defence attorney John Furniss, De la Torre adamantly denied all details of the evidence given by Powell’sfriends. The young women were all equally adamant under cross examination that they had not seen  De la Torre by the side of the road when they dropped Powell off or that she had run at him screaming.

The medical report indicated that De la Torre had lacerations to his neck and face and a deep laceration to his upper chest and wounds to both hands and his thumb. The doctor who examined him said that his condition was not serious and he was discharged the day after being admitted to hospital.

Powell is also charged with the lesser offence of maliciously wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The judge-alone trial continues Tuesday before Justice Charles Quin.

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Brand New Cayman Express Plane

| 15/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): A 30-seat Embraer 120 aircraft, which will be in use by Cayman Airways Limited (CAL) until early next year, completed its inaugural flight between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac Wednesday 15 October.  The Embraer was obtained under a temporary wet lease arrangement and will be operated by interCaribbean Airways. According to CAL President and CEO, Fabian Whorms, this aircraft type will be utilized for an interim period while Cayman Airways completes the necessary steps to introduce slightly larger Saab 340 aircraft on the route in early 2015.  “The Saab 340 will be owned and operated by Cayman Airways, staffed with our top ranked Cayman Airways staff and featuring Sir Turtle and the full Cayman Airways livery,” he said. Read more on CNS Business

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Local actress performs on London stage

| 13/10/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): A talented young Caymanian actress appeared in the first stage production of What's Eating Gilbert Grape at Bridewell Theatre, London, which she described as “the most incredible experience in my life”. Melanie Ebanks played the part of ‘Bonnie Grape’, the morbidly obese widowed mother of Gilbert (played by Johnny Depp in the 1993 movie version) and his mentally handicapped younger brother, Arnie (played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for an Oscar for the role). Bonnie, while clearly loving her children, struggles with depression and rarely moves. The part was described as “very emotional” by Ebanks, who wore a ‘fat suit’ on stage for the part. The play was adapted by Alex Howarth from the critically acclaimed screenplay by Peter Hedges. (Photos by Robin Savage)

"It has been the most incredible experience in my life,” Ebanks said. “Being in a world stage premier was an awesome experience. I was able to develop the character and make it my own. I feel blessed to have been a part of this amazing production.”

The play, which ran from 2 to 11 October, was produced by the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, where Ebanks attends.

See a Cayman27 interview with Ebanks.

Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts Facebook page

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PwC Junior Circuit returns after summer break

| 09/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CITC): The Cayman Islands Tennis Club hosted the fourth PwC Junior Circuit Tournament ofthe year this past weekend. This was the first PwC Junior Circuit tournament since the summer break and it was fantastic to see all the juniors back into action over the long hot summer. The tournament had 24 of Cayman’s top juniors participating in the competition but saw a lot of first time winners. The final PwC Junior Circuit Tournament will be held at the Ritz at the end of November. In the 10 and under division, the winner, Jake Serpell, defeated the number 2 ranked player, Caden Stradling in a very tough final match, winning his first ever PwC junior Title. (Left: Jake Lomax)

The 10 and under division was the biggest division of the tournament with 10 participants and it was also nice seeing some first timers come into the tournament and doing well  with Jakub Neveril winning the Consolation round. 

In the 12 and under division, we also witnessed the number two ranked player Lauren Fullerton accomplish a great win in the finals against Neildeep Ghosh to claim her first title.  At the moment, Lauren has carried forward what she did in Jamaica this summer capturing the title at this tournament as well as in Jamaica over the summer.

In the 14 and under division, the top ranked player in the 12 and under division, Jack Lomax, played up an age group and played against a familiar foe in Harrison Clough.  The match was tight and at the end Harrison Clough won in a tough third-set tie-breaker to win his first 14 and under PwC Title.  Although Harrison was the favorite to win the division, it was a long-fought match between two competitive players.

In the 18 and under division, we also witnessed a strong newcomer to Cayman who will make the division a bit more competitive.  Brad Johnston, who recently moved here from Great Britain, defeated Jade for the third place finish in the 18’s, while, the top player, Daniel Reid, defeated Callum Theaker in a very tight and long two-set match for the PwC title.

The Cayman Islands Tennis Club is very proud to host these events for the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands and we would like to offer a special thanks to PwC for their continued support in growing tennis in the Cayman Islands. These tournaments are a great gateway to get juniors excited about sport and how they carry themselves further in the world that awaits them. 

Thank you to the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands for their support. And a special thanks to the pros at the Cayman Islands Tennis Club for hosting another popular event.

Results:

Under 10’s:
Consolation Final – Jakub Neveril Defeated Willow Wilkinson 6-1, 6-1
For 3rd Place- Todd Purton Defeated Ben Stainrod 4-6, 7-5, 10-1
Final- Jake Serpell defeated Caden Stradling 6-4, 7-5

Under 12’s:
For 3rd Place- Alex Claybourn defeated Jenny Purton 6-0, 6-0
Final – Lauren Fullerton defeated Neildeep Ghosh 7-5, 6-3

Under 14’s:
For 3rd Place- Matthew Barnett defeated Calum Lindsay 5-7, 6-4, 11-9
Final – Harrison Clough defeated Jack Lomax 6-2, 4-6, 10-7

Under 18’s:
Consolation Final- Nicholas Leonard defeated Graeme Hill
For 3rd Place- Brad Johnston defeated Jade Wilkinson 6-1, 6-2
Final- Daniel Reid defeated Callum Theaker 7-6, 6-4

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Fun event for young tennis players

| 09/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(TFCI): The second Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands 8 & Under Fun Event was held at the Paul Howard Community Courts in West Bay recently. Nine children attended the event sponsored by PwC, with parents watching the games, which were played on the four mini-tennis courts. Coach Alexander Frazer of the Cayman Islands Tennis Academy officiated the matches and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the event. The next 10 & Under event will be held on Saturday 27 November at the Camana Bay tennis courts. Anyone wishing to join the fun should contact the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands at admin@tfci.ky to be added to their newsletter. 

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