Human Rights Chair raises question of mandatory life

| 18/03/2010

(CNS): The man who was appointed to oversee the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission earlier this year has made his first public comment about the question of mandatory life sentences handed down to those found guilty of murder. Richard Coles Chairman of the new commission has stated that the sentence conflicts with human rights and that it will need to be addressed before the bill of rights established under the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 is implemented. Legislation will need to be changed in order to create a tariff from which judges will use their discretion to hand down a sentences to those convicted of murder.

Likely to cause controversy in the community, Coles said, however that a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole is in conflict with the European Convention of Human Rights and will also conflict with Cayman’s own bill when it comes into effect in 2012.

Speaking to News 27 Cole said that currently the only sentence that a judge can give is life, which means life with no chance of parole. However, with a tariff the judge will be able to hand down a specific sentence of 25 or more years.  Judges will still be able to impose a life sentence but they will be able to indicate the minimum of time to be served before a prisoner would be eligible to apply for parole. In the UK depending on the particulars of the murder a judge can order a prisoner to serve at least 35 years before he can make a parole application. The length of a life sentences varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and depending on the circumstances surrounding the murder inmates can become eligible for parole after as little as years.

Introducing a tariff for murder convictions in Cayman does not mean that all those currently serving a life sentence, or those convicted in the future will be able to get out early. However, it will provide an opportunity for them to apply for a specific sentence and then once they have served the minimum required they can begin the process of applying for parole which of course can still be denied if an inmate is considered to be a danger to society.

At present there are 16 convicted murderers serving a mandatory life sentence in Northward Prison. When the law is changed all of them will be entitled to make a legal application to have their sentence reviewed. Depending on the outcome some serving inmates may find that they are then eligible to apply for parole.

Currently, the justice system in Cayman has no room for manoeuvre when it comes to murder. As a result all those charged with the crime will always plead not guilty despite the quality of the prosecution’s case against them. Some have argued that the introduction of a tariff will not only meet the country’s future obligations to the bill of rights but may see an increase in guilty pleas if there is some hope for defendants who have committed what is seen as the ultimate crime.

See News 27 report.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just what we need – a bleeding-heart liberal, ready and willing to bat on the side of the murderer. Talk about the wrong message to send anyone about to take another’s life. Mr.Cole, if it wasn’t for the UK these murderers would be swinging on the end of a rope. As it is now, they can wake up every morning breathing, which is something their victims are surely unable to do. Now you want to have them eligible for release? You mean being alive isn’t a big enough break? Come on man!!! Completely bonkers, and an affront to human decency. Heaven forbid you ever succeed in your endeavours. I wish you nothing but utter failure. Please take this sentiment back to the UK/Europe.

  2. Richard Wadd says:

     Rights for VICTIMS, not for Criminals.

     Send a message to the Crims, 


  3. Anonymous says:

    To anon 9:30  Please excuse me if I don’t take pity on a MURDERER having to live uncomfortable for 25 or 35 years. Atleast they get to live.  

    Everyone is entitled to their own view on capital punishment or life sentences, I used to be a firm believer in rehabilitation and I also didn’t believe the death penalty was the answer.  Unfortunately, when it hits closer to home and you have a family member brutally murdered you certainly change your perspective. 

    What gives someone the right to take away a life? When you committ murder you should lose all of your rights for LIFE! They should be locked away for good!

    There may be some who disagree with my point of view, but just think about the heart felt pain that never ever goes away from the family members of a murder victim.


  4. Because says:

    Because we are not all neanderthals.

  5. Anonymous says:

     Why not mandatory death!

    Doesn’t someones "bible"/"Koran" rule book state "an eye for an eye"

    Just a question?

    • Anonymous says:

      There are guys who committed murder in the past years and are carcerated at the Northward Prison for over 20 years that was committed when they were very young.  However these guys grow up and become murderers because of the life that they had as youngsters. Although its usually kept secret they are victims of abuse, single parents, poverty etc. After a few years of incarceration they are changed adults, and can be placed again in society.After all you innocent christians Jesus came to save the sinners and not the righteous. There are some recent hard core murderers that should not stand a chance in hell. I did hear that the two most recent Gorvenors  was looking into the behaviour of these Prisioners and intertaining the idea of releasing them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The liberal agenda being put forth under the guise of human rights is destroying Europe and now they want to extend it as far as possible to overseas territories.

    It is shameful the manipulation and ignoring the rights of law abiding citizens for the so called rights of the criminal and undeserving leaches of society.

    100 years from now the future society will historically viewthe advent of human rights legislation as the beginning of the decline of social order in the civilized world.

    • slowpoke says:

      Yes! That dreaded “Liberal Agenda”, it all started when those darn liberals abolished salvery and then, let women vote no less!

  7. Anonymous says:

    With the type and frequency of violent crime being perpetrated in the last couple years, I am all in favour of creating an opportunity for "guilty" pleas in exchange for more testimonial evidence against the organized underworld of these islands. 

    For example, I have no problem with a murderer being eligible for parole after 25 years instead of 35 years, so long as they assist to put away all of their compadres at the same time.  The "not guilty" pleas clog the courts, and due to possible prosecution ineptitude, provide an additional opportunity for the truly guilty to go free.  Currently there is no incentive to entering a guilty plea. 

    Despite what many seem to believe, Northward is a hostile and uncomfortable environment.  One’s space is crammed with degenerates and violations of your peace.  Ask anyone who has resided there.  25 years is unimaginably long, if they can survive in there that long.  If you want to curtail the crime wave, have the newly reformed speak to schoolchildren about how lousy it truly is in there.  I invite anyone who believes otherwise to go visit.


  8. Anonymous says:

    unfortunate development  and news for victims and law abiding citizens here— sorry folks, you have no rights or human rights  or right to be alive.

    These  rights exist only for criminals and murderers.

    Congrats Mr Cole, you do deserve a MBE  or higher and so do the lawyers who support this and excpect to be paid from the legal aid budget.

    Join the Civil Service in destroying Cayman



  9. Anonymous says:

    This human rights stuff is being taken too far.  Human rights applies both ways and every man has a right to life.  Therefore if one person takes the life of another, he has permanently deprived the victim and their family to of their right and should accordingly, lose their right to all freedom for the rest of their lives, as the victim will never gain their life back.  Fair is fair and Mr. Cole, not because the rest of the world has warped thinking, that it means we must adopt it too. No way.  It would have been far better for you to address victim’s rights, which everyone thus far seems to have forgot. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Human Rights to a murderer?  Tell that to the family of the murdered victim.  Why should someone who takes someone elses life not get "life in prison".  Accidental is one thing, but when you shoot at someone or kidnap someone and it ends in murder why should that indiviudal be walking around again in society??????

  10. Right ya so says:

    New constitution – humph!  Tha wha unna get! it all looks good on paper …….

    • Anonymous says:

      If we did not negotiate a new constitution which containeda bill of rights the UK would have imposed one and we would be that much worse off.

  11. Anonymous says:

    remember there are at least two lifers at northward who should not be in prison. roper and manderson,

    • Anonymous says:

      The entire Cayman Public is in agreement with this that Manderson and Roper should not be in Prison. I HOPE THAT THIS NEW GOVERNOR WILL LOOK INTO THIS. Also you have Blanford Lindsel, Bruce and Mrs Archers brother who is past due to be released.

      • Warren Peace says:

        But if mistakes are made what happens is the masses get their way and we have captial punishment?  Who will perform the resurrections?

        • Rorschach says:


           with all of the continued questions regarding the quality of the investigations and evidence which the RCIP produce in capital cases, I have to agree, that it would probably be sooner rather than later that an innocent person is put to death….Even in the USA, there have been numerous cases where persons have sat in prison for 10, 15 even 20 odd years until they were FINALLY cleared by the latest in DNA evidence.  Oddly enough these same persons proclaimed their innocence, yet no one believed them…

      • Anonymous says:

        The criminals are still locked up for a reason. Probably they are considered a serious threat to society and likely to re-offend.

        Let’s double all sentences and send them to a Brazilian prison to serve it.  It would cost a fraction of the tax dollars and would be an almighty incentive to the next generation of Caymanians to turn away from a life of crime.

      • anony says:

        What proof do you have that they are not guilty, speak for yourself

        Which entire Cayman Public?

  12. Warren Peace says:

    Well done Mr. Coles.  It is at times of social stress (such as crime increasing or terrorist threats) that rights need the MOST protection.  (See Lord Atkins famous dissent in Liversidge v. Anderson).

    The ECHR obligations already cover Cayman and there is no need to await the Bill of Rights.  Madatory sentences are an obvious problem and should be resolved appropriately as the UK has done.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Given that government is likely to have to amend the law in order to comply with the ECHR, unless they are completely under the control of or in control of the criminal element they ought to:

    1) Amend the law to specify minimum sentences for all violent crimes that are at least twice what the average sentence is now.

    2) Amend the law to prohibit any parole whatsoever for any person convicted of a violent crime.

    3) Amend the law to make it exceedingly difficult for any person charged with a violent crime to get bail. We have enough intimidation of witnesses already without allowing criminals bail so that they can immediately start intimidating.

    4) Amend the law to require that persons convicted of more than one violent crime have to serve each sentence consecutively rather than at the same time. As it is at the moment, if a person commits one armed robbery they might as well commit a hundred as the penalty is the same in either case.

    5) Amend the law to make Northward less of a spa by banning cell phones, take out meals, A/C, cable TV, video games, and internet access other than for persons taking prescribed educational courses.

    I am fed up with the pampering of criminals and I am fed up with paying for criminals living a better life in Northward than most of us honest people can afford for ourselves.

    Any politician that is willing to take action to amend our laws as above will get my vote. The ones who work hard to protect the criminals will not.


  14. Anonymous says:

    these are violent criminals!  they took away the victim’s rights, tell me, why should they have any?????  pure and simple, keep them locked up with HARD labor treat them like the prisoner that they are!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Simpler solution. . .how about Capital Punishment,

    Give them an option – life imprisonment without parole or the death sentence.  Human rights, give me a break Mr.Coles!  A murderer does not receive any leniency from this writer.  Institute Capital Punishment and don’t play around.  I know how us Caymanians like to copy what the U.S. does, so why not follow the procedures of Texas or Florida (two states that support Capital Punishment).

    Isn’t there some scripture in the Bible – an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, etc. and aren’t we a Bible believing society?

    Cayman is way too soft on criminals and now we have Mr. Coles looking to make it softer. 

    I have heard it said that us Caymanians don’t support Capital Punishment.  At least one of us still does. 

    The criminals are laughing at our police and justice system.  What sort of deterrent is Hotel Northward.  We are going to send you to prison and feed, clothe and shelter you for the rest of your life.  You do not have to worry about hard work, any bills, health insurance, pension or anything else, because we will take care of you – even better than you could do for yourself prior to coming to prison.


    Sign Me,

    Capital Punishment would mean 16 less prisoners

    Sign Me,


  16. Anonymous says:

    The position apparently advanced by the committee may represent a correct but limited interpretation of what is permitted within the boundaries of compliance with the ECHR. However, it would be wrong for the community to be given the impression that the only thing on the table in the context of the ECHR would necessarily be the weakening of present punishment for murderers.

    It is open to our politicians, should they miraculously find the political will to take a stand against the violent crime that is ripping Cayman apart, to make it clear that Cayman society does not tolerate violent crime.

    Government should introduce new legislation which imposes a tariff of appropriately harsh minimum sentences for all violent crime including murder. These minimum sentences need to be at least double what the current average sentence is.

    Government should pass legislation to eliminate parole for all violent criminals.

    Government should  pass legislation to make it much more difficult for persons charged with a violent crime to get bail. At present people are granted bail and immediately set about intimidating potential witnesses.

    Government should pass legislation to ensure that sentences for each violent crime committed are served consecutively rather than concurrently. At present a violent criminal could shoot one person a week for a year, yet the sentence they receive for each crime would typically be served concurrently – that is at the same time – meaning there is no disincentive for ongoing violent behaviour.

    To give a further example, in my view a person who first robs with violence, then abducts with violence, then rapes, then murders the same person should get at least 4 sentences of 100 years each with each sentence to be served separately – ie 400 years with no parole.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What about the rights of the victim? They are serving a mandatory sentence with no right of appeal!!!! What about their rights?

  18. Anonymous says:

    We are in a middle of a crime wave of murder and other offences and this is what Mr. Coles chooses to make his first speech on? It is now inviting those who have been convicted to appeal against their sentence on human rights grounds once the Bill of Rights comes into effect. We should be seeking stiffer penalties like Life with hard labour rather than lesser.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Comments like this is why Cayman should never have taken on a new constitution enshrining human rights, a complaints commissioner law, a freedom of information law, a financial management law mandating fiscal prudence or any other modern legislation. Too many of us act like we would be more at home in some of the world’s more backward countries. It’s a shame.

      • Cleo Shay says:

        So true.  Too many consider human rights to be like evolution and plate tectonics, fairy stories invented by deluded non-believers.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Simple solution……………when their time come up for parole…….just decline and then they can apply again in 5 years….then decline again!!!!!!!!!!