AG denies penal code changes threaten civil liberties

| 12/12/2011

Sam bulginAG_0.jpg(CNS): The attorney general has said that the changes to the Penal Code relating to disorderly conduct and gang activity will not catch up innocent people and are not a threat to civil liberties. Samuel Bulgin (left) told the Legislative Assembly that there needed to be a deterrence regarding anti-social behaviour, which he said everyone in the community recognised was becoming a problem.  He said zero tolerance ought to be embraced as he defended the changes to the law. Bulgin denied that they would allow the police to take trivial behaviour and criminalize people as gang members.

Amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code that increase sentences and fines for public order offences among other issues was passed in the Legislative Assembly during the latest sitting.

The attorney general said some of the fines in the law had not been amended for decades and the changes were designed to account for inflation. He said the other issues were to address gang problems and anti-social behaviour.

He said the legislators had their ears “close to the ground” and it was common knowledge that a lot of the problems in Cayman are caused by the gathering of unsupervised youngsters left to their own devices who create trouble, intimidation and harassment to law abiding citizens. Bulgin said they were getting involved in anti-social behaviour and eventually end up in the criminal justice system

The amendments gave the police a proactive approach to some of the problems the community is facing regarding gangs and enabled them to break-up the groups of unsupervised youngsters before they could cause trouble. He said this was a way of addressing the problems before those youngsters became criminal and reached the courts. The AG denied that it would interfere with civil liberties.

“We are trying as much as possible to balance civil liberties with law and order,” he told the Legislative Assembly during the recent debate. The AG said if there was any abuse of power people had a route of redress and if it created any real problems it could be revisited by legislators.

“We have heard these cries before. We heard the cries about … adverse inference and anonymous witnesses and it is quite legitimate for people to raise these concerns, but the proof is in the pudding,” he said, adding that these had worked “very well” and the court was another safeguard of civil liberties.

Bulgin said most of the changes to the Penal Code were to update the fines and penalties because many had not been addressed for many years, and it was as much about inflations as anything else. He said the amendments dealt only with maximums and the courts were not tied when it came to issues of drunk or disorderly offences in terms of leniency. The court can still impose a sentence of one day or ten days for disorderly conduct or other anti-social offences.

The opposition leader pointed to a number of concerns regarding civil liberty issues and said the definitions in the law were too broad or not defined at all as in the case of the introduction of a law against gross indecency. Alden McLaughlin warned that the vagrant offences may impact mental health patients, and as there was such a wide collection of definitions, he urged attorney general to create separate offences to ensure the innocent would not be swept up in this new criminalization of anti-social behaviour.

See Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code amendments below.

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  1. Like It Is says:

    Expand the juries to all residents – it would increase convictions and decrease wrongful acquittals.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The AG should just go back to sleep. Zzzzzzz.

    He lost all credibility when he did not enforce the law after Mark and John John failed to meet the requirements of the law prior to the last election.

    AG. Zzzzzzzzzz. Gov Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Mac $$$$$$$$$$$$.

    • Anonymous says:

      Give that one a rest, would never have succeeded in Court, and if there had been a re-election would have had same result and cost the country a fortune for a by-election…the errors were minor procedural ones, it wasn’t that they DIDN’tT declare, it was that they declared late, and those declarations would not and probably did not affect any voters decision…. The margin by which they won was sufficient enough that they would have been elected again…..AG was right not to take action, he would have been lambasted by the Court if he had brought a Petition,- for wasting the Court’s time……

  3. Anonymous says:

    Where are the comments from the Chair of the Human Rights Commission (and former AG)? He should be pressed on this, CNS. 

    • so anonymous says:

      There is no need for them to comment on a job that needed to be done.  There are however many comments from those who are now more scared then ever of being caught and punished.  Lots of third world computer literates out there.  But this is Cayman.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The attorney general should concentrate his efforts on enforcing the laws already on the books. What good are new laws when the existing ones are broken with impunity?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I look forward to a zero-tolerance approach to regulating the next election, and correspondingly poor trading figures for importers of electrical appliances.

  6. Knot S Smart says:

    May I please suggest that we hire the group of private lawyers who are getting all of the criminals off, to instead prosecute the criminals?

    Then our legal department could just exist  to defend the criminals.

    This arrangement would cost less and result in more convictions.

  7. Al Nomadi says:

    I request the AG to define ‘rogues and vagabonds’.
    This to my mind is a vague term going back to the UK and used to control the poor unfortunates who had no homes or jobs and no social welfare, and it allowed the authorities to put them put of sight in prison.

    To have this term in a British colony, a territory that is part of the EU is a disgrace, and, in all probility contravenes the Bill of Rights.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn't trust his legal opinion on how to tie my shoe laces.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sam Bulgin needs to be relieved of his duties.

    Remember he's the man who has ignored our elections law by allowing Mark and Dwayne to hold seats in the LA when they were elected outside of the provisions of the law. That he is also the man who was given status in 2003 by McKeeva and Co. That he did nothing when Mike, Elio, Perlina and Jonathan were giving out little slips of paper with their name on them at the polling stations on election day (hello! illegal!). He has not said peep about the fact that our Premier is under criminal investigation….plus a bunch of other things that I'm sure that I'm forgetting at the moment.