Cops get more power on guns

| 22/11/2011

_DWJ5967-2_2.jpg(CNS): Planned changes to the country’s gun laws will allow police to hold people who they suspect of gun crimes for almost a month without having to charge them with an offence and will see them able to search homes, cars and people without a warrant if they suspect an illegal firearm maybe inside. Changes that law enforcement officials asked for in the wake of September’s spate of gang related killings, including a switch in the burden of proof where the defendant will need to proof he is not guilty, are expected to be debated by legislators at next month’s sitting of the Legislative Assembly, giving the police far reaching powers over people suspected of committing offences under the firearms law. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The police had asked the authorities to review this law to give officers the power to search anyone they believe may have a gun without a warrant in the same way that they can search premises if they suspect individuals may have drugs.

The proposed amendment states: “ If a constable or customs officer has reasonable cause to suspect that any person is in possession of a firearm or bullet-proof vest in contravention of this Law he may, without warrant, detain and search such person and whether or not any person is detained or searched may, without warrant, break open and search any premises, vehicle, vessel or thing whatsoever in which he has reasonable cause to suspect that any such firearm or bulletproof vest may be concealed.”

The new law also makes a fundamental switch in the usual principles of justice and places the burden of proof on defendant’s facing charges in the court rather than the crown. Alleged offenders will now have to prove that an unlicensed a gun found in their car or home, for example, is not in their possession rather than the other way round. In future if a person is found with an illegal firearm on their premises they will have to explain why it is not their gun if they plead not guilty rather than the crown having to prove it is.

As well as the new powers to search people, based only on suspicion and not evidence, the police will also be able to keep suspects in custody for 14 days without charging them with a crime. They will then be able to apply to the court to extend that detention period for another two weeks giving police almost a month before they need to come up with a crime to keep holding a suspect.

The amendments come as a result of requests made by the police who had stated that the laws they were using to deal with gang and gun crime were insufficient and prevented them being able to find illegal weapons.

David Baines, the RCIPS commissioner had called for what he described as “practical legislation” in September after five men were gunned down in eight days. He said he wanted to see the burden of proof switched from prosecutors to defendants and officers given the ability to make warrantless searches whenever and wherever they have grounds to suspect guns are hidden.

Asking for the barriers presented by the need for warrants and the need to prove a suspect has possession to be removed the commissioner said having the right legislation is important in the fight against gang crime.

Efforts to fight crime would be “meaningless” if the police could not carry out their investigations lawfully the senior officer had stated but was hopeful he would get the legislative changes as he said, “There is no lack of appetite to move forward on this.”

Some of the country’s legal profession, however, have raised questions about the constant encroachment by legislators on civil liberties in order to help law enforcement bolster weaker cases. One local attorney expressed the views of a number of lawyers when he said that changing laws to aid weak prosecution and poor police investigations will not stop the crime, just reduce the people’s rights.

“Oppressive laws can only lead to further and more extreme acts of criminality,” Peter Polack an outspoken critic, warned. He pointed out that the problem of passing such an amendment would be unveiled once an innocent friend, relative or child is arrested.

“If a firearm is found on a bus, is everyone to be arrested or just the driver?” the lawyer asked rhetorically as he pointed out the potential pitfalls in this type of legislation “If a firearm is found in a community meeting is everyone to be arrested or just the community leader? If the commissioner and 14 UK officers are on a North Sound cruise and an illegal firearm is discovered, are all to be arrested? We are already on the slippery slope and the leaders of non-performing institutions should be stepping aside instead of deflecting poor performance,” he added.

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  1. Anonymous says:
    Someone tell me as to what specific requirements makes a person a suspected un-licensed firearm holder? Is it police saw your bank transaction $600 transferred for 'Gun'. Or… Is your home in close vicinity to a known gang hangout? So oh, you know! A gun must be there! Or… is it something heard on the marlroad or whispered in the Northwest Breeze? So now, hey! – You can have your stuff torn apart and searched too AND guess what?! You can't do anything about it because YOU GAVE THEM THE POWER TO SEARCH YOUR 'ISH' WHENEVER THEY FEEL LIKE.
  2. Anonymous says:
    If we make this go through we are doomed. This is us peacefully and happily giving up our rights, putting power into these peoples hands, the power to search our house, car, person or any 'thing'… thing – being subjective to "any thing you own or dont own". This is one of the most flagrant attacks on the people I have ever seen and anyone who supports this need to get beat up-side the head with same said "firearms". – Yours Truly, A stupid Caymanian.
  3. Anonymous says:

    So, any guy leaving the Club with a bulge in his pants can be arrested???

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is not the law that is deficient since many civilised countries operate on the principle of innocent until guilty.

    It is the RCIPs that is inadequate, but conveniently they have blamed the law.

  5. Necessaryevil says:

    There seems to be a good old dose of BRITISH Nanny State mentality and irrational anti-gun British phobia and brain washing.

    Laws DO NOT "protect" anybody. As an example offences of MURDER and GBH are after all against the law!

    LAWS do not prevent criminals obtaining unlawfully carrying and using firearms. You just need to look at the U.K to see that. Tony BLURT's government BANNED the legitimate private ownership of pistols in 1997.

    The criminal sc*m are shooting people EVERY SINGLE DAY all over the UK with PISTOLS to this day. It has got a lot worse since 1997 ! Soft sentencing and inept courts presided over by out of touch judges is the problem.

    Britain has the most restrictive Firearms Legislation in Europe and the HIGHEST Firearms crime rate. Yet people persist in quoting Britain as a " SHINING EXAMPLE" of gun control.

    What you are proposing in the Caymans is a significant step further. It will NOT work.

    Police in the U.K only need "reasonable cause" to search a person or any vehicle in public. They still need a warrant for premises. It works quite well.

    Take away judges discretion. 30 years madatory sentence for unlawful possession. NO PAROLE 30 years means 30 years.

    MURDER OR GBH should be a sentence to DIE IN PRISON…… parole. If you live to 80 or die of cancer three years later in Jail………..sentence served. That is the answer.



  6. bradley says:

    Wow… can see the movements now:

    CCTV camaras

    Powers to tap phone Conversations

    Warrantless searches authorized

    Poligraphing local Police Officers

    A failed constitution that can't protect our democratic rights

    Something tells me that they are preparing for an EASY british takeover, after making us into a Police state. Either you comply or get caught and detained.

    • cayman stew says:

      scary isn't it, but those who are smart are preparing themselves for when the cat jumps, not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. jesus said, be wise like serpents and harmless as doves

  7. Anonymous says:

    Bad law.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Police can't conduct a proper investigation?  Can't build a case that will hold up in court?  No problem!!  Let's just lower the legal requirements and switch the burden of proof to the accused so they can invade the the homes & businesses of the innocent on a whim and trample their human rights.  Oh, happy days are here again…..


    So in theory, if I call up and make accusations "resonable suspicion" that the senior officials of the RCIPS have illegal firearms in their homes, I would hope that a search without warrant would be done.  Because that is essentially what the are planning to do to the rest of us if this "police state' law is passed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I honestly believe that some people blow this out of proportion. First of all, just because the law allows the police to put the burden of prove on a suspect doesn't mean that this has to be applied every single time.

    For example – if a gun is found at a town hall meeting, I am sure the police can recognize that the gun was planted by someone and they may or may not find who did this.

    On the other hand, if they have to guys (who are somewhat known to the police and perhaps have a previous track record) are ridingiding in a car and  a weapon is found during a traffic stop, they can't just play dumb and claim they have no idea how it got there.

    Hopefully – this will make people more cautious who they are surrounding themselves with and some people need to come out from under their rock and can no longer claim ignorance not knowing what their husband, friend, brother etc is up to.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Correction to my last post – it's Peter Polack. The spelling in the story is wrong.

  11. Legal Seagull says:

    Good!  Guns are killing the future of Cayman.  These effective search powers will help protect the innocent.  No-one has a good reason to have a gun in Cayman other than perhaps certain farmers.

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope that you say the same thing if someone reports you have a gun in your house and the Police break your door down to search it at 4am in the morning

  12. Necessaryevil says:

    WHAT !!! No ballistic armour allowed……………..PASSIVE defensive equipment ?

    Now that is real turw blue British NANNY STATE mentality with twist of Cuban repression thrown in.

  13. WREX says:


    This is how it started in Cuba; it is the "For your own benefit/safety" strategy, or the "we know better".  Who needs rights anyways?

    This makes it look like they allowed the shootings to escalate in order to push for these laws.

  14. Whodatis says:

    Why not just add waterboarding to the list while you're at it?

  15. Anonymous says:

    just look at how this man is holding this firearm.  nobody can tell that he had any training in the use of firearms.  you are a dissapointment to the service and the country

    • Anonymous says:

      20.31 So you expect Mr Baines to hold the gun as you might on a shooting range, when he is clearly just showing the gun to the press? Why waste so many negative  words  drawing meaningless  conclusions based on so few facts? Perhaps you should write for the British tabloids, you'd fit right in.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yay!!!!  Great news!!!!  Now RCIPS just listen to us when we tell you what we know and don't broadcast who told you!!!  You will get more cooperation and much needed help this way!!!! 

  17. John Evans says:

    Already posted these comments elsewhere and (to those who criticised me at the time) more than happy to post them again here.

    Many thanks to Denny for exposing the full extent of these proposals, which I am sure he will do again here.

    It's section (g) that just shows how far into the realms of madness this proposal goes.

    Take this scenario –

    RCIPS raid a derelict property, something like the old Hyatt, and find a stash of firearms and ammo so they bust the owners. Under this law they don't need to bother with any forensics, ballistics tests or anything else that might actually identify who put the stuff there – it's done and dusted, case solved.

    And you can extend this argument almost without limit. The last place I lived in on Cayman XXXX had some really good places to stash weapons. I found hideaways you could put just about anything man-portable in and no one would come across it.

    Most of the hotels I've used also have places you could hide firearms. I did this while covering the war in Yugoslavia 20 years ago – book a room, finda good hiding place in the building, stash the weapon then come back in country two weeks later and retrieve it.

    What next? Someone drops a spliff on the floor or on the sand outside a bar, or in the bushes round a hotel and they bust the owner for possession?

    The most dangerous thing about this is that makes planting evidence so much easier. All the RCIPS, someone's business rival or their pissed off ex needs to do is drop a few rounds of ammo on the property and the owner ends up with three squares and a rack in Northward for a few years – this is potentially a license for illegal payback.

    Lawyers must be reading this and going 'Ka-Ching' as they work out how much these moves will earn them. This is papering over the cracks Mr Baines and you know it.

    • Anonymous says:

      For what it’s worth: lawyers are outraged by yet another foolish law passed without bothering to think through the consequences.

      “Ka-Ching” for criminal law? Only if you want to earn 20% of what you could get doing commercial work . Your closing comment displays a level of ignorance normally only found within the Cayman goverment.

      • Legal Seagull says:

        This lawyer is not outraged, but rather welcomes this important and effective reform.  In my experience the only reforms of criminal laws that have any chance of making a positive difference are the ones the criminal defence attorneys complain about.

      • John Evans says:

        I would be happy to accept your criticism but for one point – you posted it anonymously.

        If lawyers really are outraged about this let's have them post their comments here under their real names. Better still I'd like to see them petition the Governor (who is responsible for the RCIPS) and the OT Minister to get this lunacy stopped. When that happens I will happily apologise.

        Personally, I still think that the implications in terms of future damages claims, which promise very high returns for minimal effort, are an incentive for the legal profession to remain silent and I applaud people like Peter Pollack who have the guts to stand up and be counted.

        • Anonymous says:

          People have tried that before: they tend not to get their work permits renewed.

          Your cynicism regarding the legal profession is misplaced.  You may find that when these bills are circulated in draft form to the Law Society and CBA (with impossible deadlines in which to comment) lawyers give freely of their time and the sort of points you and others on CNS are raising are forcefully made.  These comments are invariably ignored by the legislature.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whilst I understand where you are going with this in general (and I understand that this law is very controversial), I don't think that your examples are all that valid.

      I know that we all have lost a lot of faith in the RCIP, but I do believe that the police and the crown can tell the difference between people who are generally upstanding citizens, have a clean track record and don't surround themselves with any "shady" people or partake in any suspicious activities.

      On the other hand, I believe that this clears the road for the police that in cases where gang members for example hand the weapons to someone else after the use to be hidden somewhere are not going to get away with it but simply claiming it isn't theirs and playing dumb. Just because the law is there doesn't mean that it has to be applied in every single scenario (such as finding a weapon at a town hall meeting etc) and give the police some descretion when to apply this.

      A lot of people do not seem to mind aiding crime by hiding weapons for a friend or familymember etc. People know if someone in their circles or family is involved in something they shouldn't be, so perhaps this is going to make them think twice whether they should come forward and report those people and if not, they may want to distance themselves completely from them.

      I especially hope that women will start to know what their men are up to and begin to wonder if it is worth to have these thugs as a "partner" especially if they are going to be guilty or a crime by association (ie hide weapons etc). Don't tell me that they don't know that those men are no good.

  18. Anonymous says:

    And slowly our rights continue to erode away as the Cayman public stares into oblivion….

  19. Cayman's Police State says:

    More draconian laws and measures to make life even more comfortable at Police HQ. The more laws you have the less justice you get?

  20. Raffaelle says:

    How many more laws are we going to have the last time we have this situation 35 odd amendments were set out . Here we are again. now about to give arbitrary power to the Police to now search and arrest you on a whim"reasonable cause" can you imagine? Some criminal person calls your cellphone mistakely this said person get arrest after this call. That i guess is reasonable cause too .Why are we giving the police even more power when we know it is not a matter of will this be abuse, in fact it will be when and how will it be abused.

    This place has a very short memory can  some of you remember when the last infamous UK police Officer & MI6 Spy Chief Inspector Brian Gibbs misused  the existing Drugs Law to search the offices of  Mr John Rea and the subsequent legal entanglement and injustice this Island ended up coughing mucho dinero$$$$ out to Mr Rea

    Come on Cayman  do not allow the Police to take away the safe guards that are put in place to protect our rights. Let the Police justify reasonable cause to our Judiciary authority and its appoint officials who are employed and appointed  as our guardians of our rights and freedoms under the law.

    The police must abide by the Law and not trying to circumvent it by bypassing the processes which have been set out by us the people who also abide and pay the price every day for the laws implimentation. Tell Baines and his Police State jockeys Our freedom is simply more important than his good idea!

  21. B.B.L. Brown says:

    Wow!  This is something that could really abused.  You're going to hold someone for two weeks without any proof of guilt…. just "suspicion"?   I'm all for crime reduction, but this is scary…… anyone can be searched and/or detained on suspicion.  Not good.  It might be me…. or you. 

  22. beachbaymeatballs says:

    I argee with you Mr.Polack keeping a person in custody for 1 month is a burden on tax payers if that person is not charged. It is also unnecessary stress on police resources and opens the floodgates for legal action against the state for unlawful arrest and inprisonment.

  23. Libertarian says:

    In other words, under this law, UK police officers won't have to give a local Judge any valid reasons as to why they want to search someone's home, garage, bedroom, and even filing cabinets. For all you know, they could agents working for power heads that they themselves don't know who they are working for… and they wouldn't need a justifiable warrant from a Judge. It is all based on "reasonable suspicion," they would say… Reasonable?  That is, to their definition.  


    • Anonymous says:

      Since when did this become a UK/Caymanian thing? That officer could be Jamaican, Caymanian or Canadian too you realise !


      • John Evans says:

        But the timing suggests that the odds are it's being brought in to give the officers from Merseyside a freehand.

  24. Anonymous says:

    It's been long overdue, you can't expect the RCIPS to do their job with one hand tied behind their back. Sooner this gets passed the sooner they can pick up these people, seems they know who they all are anyway!!.

  25. Anonymous says:

    It is obvious the Commissioner is not well versed with proper gun handling by the direction he have the gun pointed in. Always treat a weapon as loaded.

  26. Anonymous says:

    So when the police breaks down your door and ran sack your house and it turns out to be the wrong house does the law stipulate that they will do the repairs and compensate you for damages?

  27. Anonymous says:

    thanks to the punks, the rights of the Cayman residents have just been thrown out the door. Time to move to Central America.

  28. Anonymous says:

    "Planned changes to the country’s gun laws will allow police to hold people who they suspect of gun crimes for almost A MONTH without having to charge them with an offence and will see them able to search homes, cars and people WITHOUT A WARRANT if they suspect an illegal firearm maybe inside".

    This is insane, folks. As Benjamin Franklin said: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety".