Archive for November 22nd, 2010

Hit and run driver gave himself up

| 22/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 27-year-old kitchen assistant has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving and leaving the scene of an accident after giving himself up to the authorities. Mario Peter Pereira, an Indian national from Goa, is charged with hitting and killing 52-year-old Winston Welsh on Crewe Road on 12 November as he tried to cross the road to the Mango Tree Restaurant. The defendant, who had been in custody, was granted bail at $5000 to appear again on 16 December when an inquiry will be held to establish the facts of the case. The defendant was told to surrender his passport, as he could not now leave the jurisdiction until the case was heard, and that he must reside at his George Town home.

During his first court appearance on Monday afternoon it was revealed that Pereira had surrendered to the police a few days after the incident and admittedthat he had hit the victim, fled the scene, altered the car and hid the vehicle before he decided to give himself up. His defence attorney said it would be established that this really was a tragic accident on a very dark road with no aggravating circumstances such as speed or drink.

The defence attorney said Pereira was well thought of and his employers were holding his job for him, which he would return to once on bail. The crown had no objection to bail being granted provided the conditions were imposed.
 

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Tourism faces major cuts

| 22/11/2010 | 21 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Tourism is set to lose much of its current functions to various other government departments as part of the civil service efficiency drive. According to the recent reportby the civil service review team, some $3.5m from the DoT budget of almost $27m can be saved by policy changes, downsizing and transferring or outsourcing responsibilities to other agencies. The team also called for an end to Jazz Fest and other promotions that the DoT manages, saying it should contribute no more than 25% to host the various other events throughout the year. The team said DoT does several things outside the stated strategic focus of tourism and needed to refocus on promoting the islands.

“Over the years, DOT has accumulated ancillary functions, the cumulative effect of which detracts from the core focus of the department,” the civil service review team said in its recent report, adding that non-core activities should be transferred or outsourced to allow it to focus on its main mission.

The review team said the administration of tourism scholarships should be transferred to the Education Council, and training to the education ministry or privatised. It said the analysis of tourism statistical data could go to Economics and Statistics Office, money collection to treasury and accommodation inspections could be done by Department of Environmental Health. It also said the department needed to cut overseas staff.

“A review of DoT expenditure and budget showed that over 60% of overseas staff time is spent on promotional activities, meaning that the government has hired overseas staff primarily to attend promotional activities at … a cost of up to $7.9 million … The review team questions the justification for spending 31% of the department’s entire budget on promotional activities,” the report stated.

The team revealed a lack of performance indicators to justify that level of expenditure. Signalling the death knell for Jazz Fest, the review team said it was concerned that the return on investment of managing tourism events is not clearly established or well monitored. “An example is the Jazz Festival, the net cost of which was $1.0 million in 2009. It was not clear what contribution the Jazz Festival made to tourist visitation figures. Also, some industry stakeholders questioned the timing of the Jazz Festival and believed that the timing is not in the best interest of the economy.”

As well as the restructuring of the US office, which is already underway, the review team proposed a restructuring of all the DoT offices, including Grand Cayman.

“The Review Team is concerned that staffing levels are excessive, outdated and are not cost effective,” the report said. “DoT employs more than 35% of its local and overseas staff in marketing roles. In addition DoT has outsourced $9.0 million of marketing expenditure. The Review Team is concerned that the true productivity gains from outsourcing through a re-alignment of staffing have not been achieved.”

It said the cost of the UK office of $2.3 million cannot be justified in terms of the passengers coming from Britain. “There is significant potential to reduce the current spend of $1.2 million on advertising and $600k on other promotional activities.”

The team recommended redirecting some of the spending to the Canadian office, which it said has the potential to increase tourist arrivals as Canada has a direct air link. The Review Team was advised that air arrivals from Canada could be doubled with input of more resources.

HR staffing levels in the department were also seen as “far in excess of the standard benchmark” for other government departments and recommended the redeployment of at least two people from human resources.

The team recommended placing more emphasis on web management, which it said was critical for the success of tourism. It said the current website and its functionality is outdated in comparison with other jurisdictions. “A review of DoT‟s internet strategy, management and resourcing is urgently needed. The Review Team believes that some of the savings identified elsewhere in this review should be redirected to upgrading the website and to developing a comprehensive E-strategy.”

Although the DoT management agreed with some of the recommendations it questioned whether tourism training could be outsourced to the private sector noting that, had this been a viable business proposition, a vocational institute specialising in tourism would have already been developed. The department also raised concerns about others inspecting tourism premises as it said DoT officers have the requisite knowledge of the laws and regulations and industry. “It is highly questionable whether another government agency would be able to effectively represent the government’s interest,” the DoT said.

Tourism managers also disagreed with the recommendation to pass on the analysis of tourism date to the ESO. “The department’s data collection, research and surveys is an ongoing and integral part of our activities so that informed business decisions can be made for effecting tourism strategies,” the DoT said. 

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Short window opens for permission to sell booze

| 22/11/2010 | 14 Comments

(CNS): For a short time only, local businesses, with the exception of gas stations, will be able to apply for new package and retail licenses until 16 January next year. The two month window of opportunity started last week and will enable restaurants and other appropriate business to add a liquor license. It will also facilitate the opportunity for new bars, restaurants and liquor stores to open new license premises without transferring a license from somewhere else. The window of opportunity comes as a result of a change in the regulations in Cabinet last week.

As a result of the moratorium which controls the number of licenses allowed on the island, those who have a license who no longer wish to operate a restaurant, bar or liquor store have sold licenses on at a premium. From time to time government lifts the moratorium to re balance the numbers or facilitate license for new developments and attractions.

During his time in office the former tourism minister Charles Clifford had said the moratorium needed to be lifted and new licensing laws developed to better manage the situation, as he said the existing law encouraged a black market in which licences have been known to sell privately for as much as $200,000. 

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Gun runner’s yard was scene of West Bay shooting

| 22/11/2010 | 8 Comments

(CNS): A man who pleaded guilty to the importation of three firearms says he bought the guns to protect himself as a result of a shooting which took place in his West Bay yard in 2009. Joseph Hurlston, who admitted guilt part way through a trial for the offence, said he went to Jamaica earlier this year and bought three handguns, for which he paid $3,000. Hurlston had returned to the Cayman Islands with the unlicensed weapons in a canoe but on nearing the reef in East End the boat had capsized. Hurlston was apprehended by police soon after coming ashore with just one of the weapons, which was loaded. The court heard that Hurlston’s home in Bonaventure Road was the location of the murder of Marcus Ebanks back in May 2009.

In the same incident Adryan Powell, who was 14 at the time, wasalso shot and is now confined to a wheelchair, and Ebanks’ younger brother was also injured when two masked men allegedly opened fire on a group of youngsters hanging around Hurlston’s yard. It was not until late May of this year that Raziel Jeffers was charged with the murder and is now awaiting trial. So far, police have made no charges in connection with the second shooter.

The court heard on Friday afternoon that Hurlston, who had no previous offences for violent crime, was a witness in this murder case. Hurlston’s only previous dealings with the court until this gang related shooting had been over possession and cultivation of ganja.

The 28-year-old West Bay man now faces a minimum sentence of seven years in jail as a result of the guilty plea, but which could be higher. The crown argued that while a guilty plea lowers the statutory minimum for firearms cases from ten years to seven, because Hurlston was so late with his plea he should not be given the discount.

John Masterson, acting for the crown, said Hurlston’s plea had come very late in the day and only once he knew for certain that all of the evidence against him would be admitted. “This was a tactical plea,” Masterson told thecourt. “He only entered his plea after highly incriminating evidence was read to the court.” Masterson stated that Hurlston had put the crown to prove the case, had not saved the court any time as all the witnesses had been called, and despite knowing he was guilty he did not admit his crime until the last possible moment. “The defendant always knows whether he is guilty,” Masterson noted, suggesting that the discount on sentencing is there to encourage people to admit to guilt as soon as possible.

Defence counsel representing Hurlston told the court that there was no qualification in the law that a guilty plea had to come at a specific time to earn the three year discount and that the judge should work from a seven year minimum sentence. Lucy Organ pointed out that, as his defence attorney, she could not advise her client to plead guilty to an offence until she knew that the firearm could be defined as a weapon and that there was proof that a crime had occurred.

She said the guns were bought, albeit misguidedly, through fear as a result of the May 2008 murder in his year and that there was no evidence to suggest Hurlston intended to use them in pursuit of a crime. With no previous convictions for violence and certainly no previous connections with firearms, but with no authorities in the jurisdiction to consider, Organ asked the judge to use his discretion when sentencing her client.

Justice Smith said he would hand down his sentence on Friday 26 November.

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