| 26/01/2009

Having one’s home burgled is a surefire way to bring one’s attention back to the problem of crime.

(My wife’s laptop computer was the biggest loss for us last week. If any reader has just bought an almost-new HP Notebook from someone at a bargain price, we might want to buy it back from you.)

Cayman doesn’t seem to have an overall strategy for dealing with crime, does it? The police have their priorities, the FCO has its, the MLAs have theirs. The Financial Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Immigration Department all have separate agendas. There’s no coordination. It’s a mish-mash.

We the general public have our own priorities and agendas too. We pick and choose, don’t we? Often, it depends on who we are. Everyone dislikes crimes of violence. Burglaries are bad only if the victim is someone we know, otherwise we shrug them off. White-collar crime is naughty, but most of us don’t take it personally even though we know we’ll pay for it in higher prices.

Fundamentalist Christians save their anger for homosexuals, whom they would like to see rot in Northward in this life, and in the bottomless pit of Hell in the next.

Many native Caymanians believe the worst criminals are those who flout the Immigration Law. Illegal immigrants should be shot out of hand; employers who favour expats over Caymanians should be shot after a fair trial. All the expat communities have zero respect for the Immigration Law, and obey it only reluctantly.

Some of our politicians hate marriages of convenience and same-sex marriages, while tolerating far more corruption than is good for Cayman. The whole crony-system is based on corruption, and it has never been more popular than it is now.

What about money-laundering? How many offshore practitioners and regulators disapprove of it, really? Many Cayman Islands firms have made fortunes by condoning dodgy practices. The off-balance-sheet subsidiaries of US and European publicly quoted companies keep our tax-haven reputation in the toilet.

For low-paid migrant workers, the most despicable criminals are those who exploit them. Domestic servants are the main victims of bosses who steal their workers’ pensions-contributions and legitimate overtime money. Yet the migrants’ problems are blatantly ignored by our law-enforcement agencies. The protection of the law is not for the likes of them. Our justice is for the rich.

And for everybody who despises some type of crime and its criminals, there is somebody who doesn’t care. Usually, there is another somebody who actually defends both the crime and the criminals. Probably half of all my writings address crimes of exploitation either directly or indirectly. And it’s always surprising to me how many critics believe those crimes to be legally and morally acceptable.

The critics imply that low-paid Jamaicans, Latinos, Filipinos and Indians are all fair game – sub-humans, essentially, who deserve no civil or human rights. If they don’t like being exploited here, let them go somewhere else to live. It’s what oppressors tell the Palestinians today, and told the Jews of earlier days. Anybody who speaks up for our poorly paid immigrants is anti-Caymanian, and they can go home too.

No wonder our islands’ crime is getting out of hand, when public criticism of law-breakers is frowned upon. Why should it be off-limits? Why should public policy allow certain laws not to be enforced when the victims are poor migrant workers? That’s not how The Rule of Law is supposed to work.

Here is a core question. How can we hope to succeed in combating crime, when the written laws of our land are not all enforced? It can’t be done. Our core question is a rhetorical question.

A core requirement is to change the situation on the ground, so that our written laws coincide exactly with the enforced Laws. We have to get rid of all provisions in our written laws that aren’t enforced, and stop enforcing rules that aren’t contained in the written laws. That would require drastically reducing the discretionary application of our laws so that no criminal is protected from them. Put time limits on prosecutions for criminal offences. This is a tiny territory: either the evidence is available or it’s not. Don’t pretend it can’t be found.

The more delay there is in bringing someone to trial, the more opportunity for evidence to go missing and for witnesses to be deported. Those things are what have largely destroyed our trust in the law.

It is widely believed that family influence can sway our Prosecution Service towards a lesser charge (or the wrong charge altogether), or a dismissal for supposed lack of evidence. This has been the case for as long as I’ve lived here and no doubt for many years before that. What does it do for the reputations of the police, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Immigration Department and the rest of them?

It’s high time our rulers – in London as well as in Cayman – took action to change the way we deal with crime. Leave Mr Bridger’s team to do its thing; it has little to do with everyday crimes and criminals. The action I have in mind borrows heavily from the Vision-2008 exercise and its sixteen topical “strategies”.

Details next week.

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