Archive for October 19th, 2012

Court helps protesters

| 19/10/2012 | 15 Comments

photo (6) (247x300)_0.jpgCNS): Activists fighting to prevent the on-going land reclamation by a developer in South Sound have obtained an injunction from the Grand Court to at least temporarily halt the work until a legal hearing on Tuesday. With less than half of the proposed area of reclamation filled, a significant amount of the marine environment, and in particular the mangrove replenishment project under threat, has won a stay of execution. Meanwhile, the chief justice has also extended an injunction at Safehaven to halt work on a proposed marina development there until a trial resolves the disputes between the Port Authority, developer Michael Ryan and several local boat captains.

The injunction which has put a stop to the work in South Sound was sought by a local protest group after a request before the attorney general to seek an injunction by the DoE regarding a decision by the CPA had languished unaddressed. The injunction was obtained on Thursday evening and served on RC Estates on Friday.

“Protect South Sound welcomes this development which will halt further environmental damage and mangrove loss in South Sound – while the various authorities consider the outstanding legal questions,” a spokesperson from the group said Friday. “While a considerable amount of fill has been placed in to the water since Monday morning, less than 50% of the area has been filled. The area in question is a Marine Replenishment Zone and designated ‘Scenic Coastline Zone’ by The Development Plan (1997).”

Although both the planning and environment departments had strongly advising against granting permission on 15 August this year, the Central Planning Authority (CPA) gave RC Estates permission to build a seawall 50ft beyond their previously approved seawall location and reclaim land out in the ocean to a 2003 boundary along some 2,000 feet of South Sound coastline.

That decision was appealed by the group, who believed the CPA erred in law as a sea boundary cannot be fixed. Nevertheless, despite the appeal the developer began filling the land this week and had poured a significant amount of marl into the ocean and on top of a mangrove replenishment project that had been financed by a grant received by the Cayman government, via the DoE, from the US Fisheries and Wildlife Services.

Meanwhile, the courts also extended an injunction for a group of local boat captains who are in dispute over the plans at the public marina in Safehaven and the concerns that a temporary site as well as the future proposed development will not be fit for purpose and will threaten their livelihoods.

On Wednesday Chief Justice Anthony Smellie extended a court injunction and directed the case to trial. For more than 20 years the captains have used the dock at Safehaven, which is owned by the Port Authority but which has been leased to developer Michael Ryan for the proposed Dragon Bay project. However, they are concerned that plans to provide a new replacement marina nearby will not meet their needs. Work had recently started at the site and the captains were asked to leave but they sought the injunction against the work so they could continue their operations until the wider questions could be addressed at trial.

The chief justice said this week that the site should be preserved until the full legal hearing and ordered that the work stopped.

Related articles on CNS:

Mangroves perish under fill

Boat captains wait on chief justice’s decision

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Ex-cop jailed for 6 months

| 19/10/2012 | 37 Comments

(CNS): A former RCIPS officer was sent to prison Friday for six months by a Grand Court judge following his conviction by a jury in June this year for wounding. Rabe Welcome (38) was found to have used “excessive force” during an arrest in the early hours of the morning at a George Town gas station while off duty in June 2009. Welcome broke an arm and caused other injuries to Adolphus Myrie during the incident, which the judge said had crossed the line. Despite several mitigating factors, Justice Alex Henderson pointed to the need in this case to deter police officers from using excessive force and to send a message that such abuse of power would not be tolerated.

The judge said that although Welcome had no previous convictions or disciplinary violations, had good character references and that he had a low risk of re-offending, given the circumstances, he felt a custodial sentence was necessary and he handed down the six month term.

Welcome was arrested following the incident and suspended from duty for some three years until his trial this summer. After his conviction he was dismissed from the service.

The incident was caught on CCTV, and although there was a degree of provocation as Myrie had threatened Welcome and two other off duty officers with a machete, at the time Welcome beat Myrie he was unarmed.

The altercation had started among the men when Welcome insulted Myrie’s girlfriend and, the court found, Myrie had then over-reacted with his threats towards the off-duty officers.

The judge said that Welcome had a right to make an arrest as Myrie had committed at least two offences, but once the victim had been persuaded to put down the machete there was no longer a need for Welcome to defend himself. Justice Henderson found that when the assault took place Myrie did not not pose a threat to the off-duty officer, who was also physically much bigger than him.

Speaking for his client during the sentencing hearing, defence attorney Ben Tonner had asked the judge not to impose a custodial sentence but to consider a community based sentence and a compensation order as he noted that, along with the mitigating factors, a prison sentence for a former police officer would be even harder as he could be serving alongside people he had arrested.

However, because of what the judge described as the “unusual circumstances of the case” and the need to send an important message to other police officers, Justice Henderson said a custodial sentence was required. 

Welcome was a serving police officer at the time who had sworn to uphold the law and was therefore on duty 24 hours a day. While he did not pose a threat to the community, using such excessive force when making the arrest was a misuse of the power of his office and there was a general need to deter such use of force by others in future.

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Olympic swimming stars support local meet

| 19/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(Stingray Swim Club): The Cayman National Sprint Meet, hosted by the Stingray Swim Club (SSC) of Grand Cayman at the Lions Aquatic Centre saw 85 swimmers in the pool and two very famous swimmers supporting them from the pool deck – founding Stingray Members and Cayman Olympians Shaune and Brett Fraser. For Cayman National, longtime supporters of Stingray Swim Club and of Cayman Swimming, Ms Claudia Welds, Senior Executive – Corporate Communications was delighted with the Meet. “With swimmers from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac here we knew it was going to be an exciting morning,” she said.

“Having Shaune and Brett on deck, cheering on the swimmers was an added bonus. These two young men are role models and examples to us all. Their commitment, dedication and discipline are the characteristics we hope to see swimming foster in all of the young athletes who took part today. Being a part of something so positive for our youth is why we support Stingray Swim Club.”
When asked about their trip to Cayman, Brett said: “We are here for the CUC 800m Sea Swim this afternoon. We haven’t done a Sea Swim for a while so it is going to be fun to get back in the sea and swim … the opportunity to be a role model for Cayman’s young swimmers both here at the Meet and later today at the beach is an honour.”
Brother Shaune was a little more nostalgic, “Being here, at the Lions Pool, for a swim meet brings back so many memories. This is where it all started and it is great to see the programme and Stingray going strong …”
Sprint Meets focus on the short distances – 25m races for the U6’s and U8’s and 50m races for the other age groups. With all of the scheduled races taking place between 9am and 12:30pm sprint meets are generally described as “ short in length and fast in excitement”; and at the end of the day there were a number of well deserving swimmers who were recognised with High Points Awards.
Boys: 6 & Under – Will Sellars (Team TI); 7-8 – Corey Westerborg (SSC); 9-10 – Krishna Adapa (SSC); 11-12 – Alex Dakers (SSC); 13-14 – Cole Morgan (SSC) and 15 & Over – Kyle Fraser and Alex McCallum (SSC). In the girls division High Points winners were: 6 & Under – Marisa Poole (SSC); 7-8 Veandra Robinson (Brac Barracudas); 9-10 Alison Jackson (SSC); 11-12 Stefanie Boothe (SSC); 13-14 – Katie Klein (SSC) and 15 & Over – Lauren Williams (SSC).
In the Boys 7-9 age group special mention must go to both Corey Westerborg who was High Points winner in his age group and who also lowered his own SSC Short Course Record for 8 & Under 50 Fly to 43:84 from 45:64; and to the Brac Barracuda’s Aidan Van der Touw who placed second in his age group and demonstrates great improvement every time he competes. In the 10 & Under Boys, Krishna Adapa deserves special mention for winning High Points in his age group for the first time, improving from an upstart newcomer just a year ago, to now claiming this award.
SSC President, Brenda McGrath was delighted with the turn out.
“It really was a wonderful morning,” she commented. “As always we thank our sponsor – Cayman National, the Officials and parents who volunteered their time, Cayman Airways who sponsored the Brac Barracudas and of course … the swimmers from Stingray and from Team T.I..”

 

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Future marine parks unveiled

| 19/10/2012 | 13 Comments

westbay5e3001_0.jpg(CNS):  Proposals for the way Cayman could protect its precious and precarious marine resources for the next twenty-five years have been unveiled by the Department of Environment. The proposed marine parks are based on the recent survey conducted by the department, local research gathered over the last 25 years since the original parks were established and the growing body of international work on marine conservation. With far greater pressures today on the reefs then there were back in the 1980s, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said it was essential that Cayman extended the protected areas to try and protect its delicate marine habitat for the future.

At present only 15% of the reef area is properly protected as ‘no take’ zones but the DoE hopes to expand that with its new plans to more than 30% ‘no take’. By retaining the boundaries of most of the existing parks and zones, the director said the department is advising government to ban all types of fishing for everyone in these areas with some limit specifically designated line fishing areas.

With so much information to take in with the revised plans, the DoE has scheduled a series of comprehensive public meetings and presentations that start on Tuesday and run until 6 November in the districts, with a permanent display in the DoE’s library at the offices on North Sound Road.

Preparing for some objections, since the new boundaries would further restrict fishing and diving and impact everyone living here, Ebanks-Petrie said she hoped people would not see the new proposals as taking something away but protecting the resources so there was still something to keep in the future.

“While it may be one way to look at it, we don’t see the new proposals as taking something away but as the only way to keep the environment so that there will be fish in the future,” the director said.

Pointing to the extensive research that now shows that protected areas have a positive impact on fish stocks even outside the restricted zones, she said that if the areas that are designated as reserves are better and more stringently protected there will be more fish to catch in the areas that are not in the new parks.

She noted that, with the introduction of ‘no-take’ across the zones, enforcement would not be any more challenging for the DoE, despite having a greater area to protect and preserve, because there would be no dispute as to the type of fishing someone was doing or who was fishing for what since the areas would be completely restricted from any kind of fishing.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed to the rise in ocean temperatures and sea levels, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, all direct results of climate change that we in Cayman can do little to control. What can be done locally, however, is to limit what we take from the oceans around the three islands and maintain, and even improve, the quality of the local reefs.

As a result of Cayman taking what was at the time the controversial step of protecting some of its marine environment and limiting fishing, it is considered a “beacon of hope” in terms of regional reef cover. Despite having seen the reef cover decline from some 80% to around 15% because of climate change since the 1970s, Cayman’s cover is far better than almost anywhere in the region because of the albeit limited protection it has had. “The marine parks have worked, but now with the increasing pressures we need more protection,” Ebanks-Petrie added.

Hoping that people will come and see the history, the justification for change and offer their support for the plans, the director said that, in the end, she can only recommend changes to the marine conservation law but the amendment to the law itself would be down to government and public support.

She pointed out that the new proposals were not just “made-up” by the DoE for the sake of it but were well researched and well-founded proposals that would protect the islands’ critically important reefs for the next 25 years so that in 2037 there would still be fish in the local oceans and reefs for the next generation to protect.

Public support for the new proposals and the future success is very important and the director said the DoE has planned a detailed schedule to show the people the reasoning behind the proposals.

The first public presentation opens at George Town library at 11am and everyone is free to come along and look at the proposals which will be presented in a poster display and discuss them with DoE staff throughout the day. Then at 7pm there will be a full presentation and explanation about the new marine parks where people will be free to comment and make suggestions about them.

See public meeting schedule below.

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Turtle Farm denies cruelty, disease or genetic defects

| 19/10/2012 | 64 Comments

PhotoGallery2.jpg(CNS): In the face of further accusations about disease, cruelty and genetic abnormalities at the Cayman Turtle Farm, officials released a second statement Thursday denying the allegations and claiming conservation credentials. As the international campaign against the farm mounts, CTF said there were plans to release 150 turtles this year to add to the 31,000 that have been released during the farm’s 40 plus year history. Following more damning criticism this week, this time from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), the CTF called the allegations “at best misleading and at worst untrue,” claiming that significant strides had been made to eradicate disease. (Photo: A Turtle with no eyes taken by the WSPA team at the farm earlier this year)

Despite the photographic evidence and other scientific peer reviewed analysis and research presented by the Word Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) recently, the farm also denied that any turtles found at the Cayman Turtle Farm had any of the genetic defects alleged.

“Cases of genetic mutation at the Cayman Turtle Farm are extremely rare, and seem to be in line with the incidence of similar defects in the wild populations,” the Turtle Farm said in another lengthy press statement in the face of the increasing international criticisms.

As the STC announced its backing for the WSPA campaign (which had 49,208 signatures at 8am Friday) to persuade the CTF to move to a purely conservation model and give up farming, it pointed to the dangers posed by releasing farmed turtles into the wild.

“Well-documented diseases found primarily in captive turtles can be spread to wild populations,” the world's oldest marine turtle research and conservation organization said. It said the release programme gives a false impression that conservation can be accomplished simply by breeding turtles in tanks and the releasing them.

“The Cayman Turtle Farm tries to promote its operation as something beneficial to wild turtle populations,” said David Godfrey, Sea Turtle Conservancy Executive Director. “Despite the lack of evidence that the turtle release program actually benefits the wild population, countless individuals around the world are led to believe that the program works and that it is a successful option for saving and restoring wild sea turtle numbers.”

Pushing back against the criticisms, the farm said it was now seeing solid returns on its conservation efforts as tagged adult females return to Cayman beaches to nest in increasing numbers. However, the CTF failed to note that less than a dozen female turtles have actually returned to local beaches.

Refuting allegations about diseases getting into wild populations, the Cayman Turtle Farm said it follows rigorous release protocols for all animals returned to the wild. “Juvenile Green Sea Turtles are selected for release; health checked and given appropriate preventative treatments; and quarantined for 30 days,” it said.

The farm pointed to 150 research papers released over the years, as well as requests for educational internships and research partnerships in support of its claimed conservation efforts.

Even though there have been a number of reported problems in the past regarding the hatch rates, the CTF said 2012 had “been a very positive nesting season” for the Farm, with over 41,000 eggs laid at the facility and an increase in this year’s hatch rate.

“Through recent satellite-tagged turtle releases, we are also able to capture data on the behaviour of Green sea turtles released into the wild – where they go and what they do, and thus far we have seen that the satellite-tracked turtles we have released into the wild have adapted well to their new habitat,” the Farm said.

“The Cayman Turtle Farm tags turtles with a 'living tag' which was developed by Professor John Hendrickson and Lupe Hendrickson of the University of Arizona. This tagging method involves the auto grafting of a small, white dot of belly shell onto the turtle's dark coloured back. This is done when the turtle is only a few days old. As the animal grows, the dot grows with it. This tagging method is tremendously significant as it is the only method whereby a tiny sea turtle hatching may be identified as a 300 pound adult more than 15 years later on a nesting beach.”

Denying any animal cruelty, officials at the Cayman Turtle Farm said animal husbandry was in accordance with internationally accepted humane standards. “We are trying to conserve these turtles, and increase their numbers. Our efforts are devoted to their well-being and care,” the Farm stated.

However, it made no reference to the allegations made by STC about the 300 green turtles that perished recently as a result of them being left to burn in the sun when a holding tank malfunctioned during a leak repair.

The CTF said, however, that its primary focus was on a “unique, safe and sustainable tourism attraction” that also supported the research and conservation of sea turtles. “The Cayman Turtle Farm looks forward to directly addressing the WSPA’s allegations, and by extension the STC’s support of this campaign, with an independent review of our operations scheduled for December 2012,” the Farm officials added.

It is not clear if the review will also look at the financial operations at the farm which continues to draw down a subsidy from government each year of in excess of CI$10 million. Despite charging visitors to the facility an entrance fee andhaving tripled the price of the meat it produces in 2010, the facility continues to be a significant drain on public resources.

See full statement from CTF below.

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Craftsman receives suspended sentence over fight

| 19/10/2012 | 2 Comments

(CNS): A two year sentence handed down to a local artisan who stabbed his cousin in the arm was suspended on Thursday by the judge as a result of provocation and a degree of self-defence. Justice Charles Quin told Rudy Solomon that the two year sentence reflected the seriousness of the offence but because of the circumstances he was suspending it. Solomon had pleaded guilty to stabbing his relative but only after the victim had thrown a bicycle at him. The man had required some 17 stiches in the wound to his arm and the judge noted that Solomon’s response to the bicycle attack was disproportionate.

Describing the circumstances of the offence, which took place in February last year, the judge said the two men who lived close to each other in East End had some “acrimonious issues”. As the defendant rode his bike passed the home of Jeff Welcome, the complainant, on the evening in question, the men exchanged insults and got into a fight.

Although there are differing accounts of what happened between the two men, the judge said the stories were the same in important areas. The common area was that the complainant had thrown the bicycle at Solomon and was persistently aggressive towards the defendant. Justice Quin said both the crown and the defence were agreed on that.

Referring to a social enquiry report, the judge said Solomon had a difficult life and had something of a history of being a victim, who was frequently bullied and reluctant to fight back. Estranged from his family, some five years ago the defendant had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the judge noted.

He said it was accepted by the defendant that he over-reacted when he sought to protect himself from the aggressive behaviour of Welcome. “In all the circumstances, the use of a knife by the defendant was unreasonable and disproportionate,” the judge said.

The knife was used by Solomon on a regular basis in relation to his craftwork, so it was not a weapon he had sought out to use against Welcome, but given the circumstances and the environment, the judge said that there were other options open to the defendant other than stabbing Welcome, such as riding away or going into his house to escape him.

Justice Quin said he agreed with the description of Solomon being something of a “tragic figure” that had a very difficult life but the court was “encouraged from the fact that the defendant is an avid craftsman, and invests the majority of his time in making and selling craft and artwork. The court strongly urges the defendant to continue in this admirable and worthwhile occupation.”

Given that the attack was a single blow and not sustained, that the defendant had pleaded guilty, showed remorse, that he had no previous convictions for violence and the clear evidence of provocation, the judge suspended the two year sentence.

The judge also ordered that Solomon pay the complainant compensation of $242.41 but he also instructed that the confiscated knife be returned to the defendant so he could use it once again in his craft.

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HSA pays its way through improved efficiencies

| 19/10/2012 | 9 Comments

hospital entrance.jpg(CNS): The local health service is becoming increasingly efficient, the health minister stated on Thursday evening as he opened the third Cayman Islands Healthcare 20/20 National Conference. Reviewing recent developments at the local public hospital, Mark Scotland told delegates that new payment systems had resulted in a reduction by a quarter of the HSA’s overheads. The minister said that after years of struggle, the HSA had at last become self-supporting as a result of the various measures it had implemented. Improved billing and collection, greater operational efficiencies and economies of scale in procurement and service mean the organisation no longer requires an annual government subsidy, he added.

“And all this came while we refurbished the three operating theatres at George Town Hospital, then added a fourth, upgraded the Eye Clinic and also renovated Cayman Brac’s Faith Hospital,” the minister said as he lauded the work of the service.

He explained that the efficiencies around bill payment, such as the new Real Time Adjudication System where a simple swipe of a card determines a patient’s levels of eligibility and coverage, had removed time-consuming guesswork and form-filling. This in conjunction with CINICO’s CarePay System across the authority’s facilities had dramatically reduced inefficiencies.

The HSA has also created an online payment system and an Internal Audit committee to develop standard procurement practices, increase billing and collection rates, ensure efficient delivery and gain appropriate payment, the minister said.

Alongside better financial control, the minister pointed to a number of other developments in local healthcare paving the way for a fitter nation. He said the CayHealth initiative had “devolved responsibility for healthcare to individuals and district clinics, assigning particular physicians to particular patients, ensuring not just continuity and efficiency of care, but also of consultation and treatment."

Scotland also spoke about legislative developments that he said would have a significant impact on local healthcare, especially insurance cover.

“We will bring amendments to the Health Insurance Law and its regulations to the Legislative Assembly on 5 November,” he revealed. “The proposed changes will increase the minimum level of benefits prescribed in the Standard Health Insurance Cover, ensuring that people under the plan have adequate resources. They will also introduce several new elements, including a wellness benefit, increased outpatient benefits, and cover for mental health.”

He also indicated that the long awaited first Human Tissue Transplant Bill, making organ transplants and donations easier, was under review and he hoped to table the bill early in the New Year. Pointing to the development of the National Health Policy which identifies nine strategic directions for health in Cayman, he said that bill would go to the Legislative Assembly next year.

With Dr Devi Shetty’s Health City breaking ground in East End, Scotland said the first phase was expected to be open by around this time next year.

Welcoming the delegates, sponsors and speakers from home and abroad to the conference, which has attracted a record breaking number of guests, the minister revealed that the success of the event meant that the costs were almost all absorbed by the private sector.

The conference theme is “Patient Centred Care” and continues through until Saturday lunch time at the Ritz Carlton. Entrance to the event is free and there are a range of local and international speakers making presentations, as well as several specific break-out sessions on a range of subjects from autism to workplace wellness.

For more details visit the website

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