Archive for June 18th, 2013

Election challenge hearing set

Election challenge hearing set

| 18/06/2013 | 96 Comments

rivers.jpg(CNS): Justice Alex Henderson got down to business Tuesday and pressed attorneys involved in the petition challenge to Tara Rivers’ election to move quickly because of the public interest. The case is now set for 17 July, when the lawyers representing John Hewitt, the petitioner, and Rivers will argue whether or not she was qualified to be elected to office in West Bay at last month’s election. Given that Hewitt is the husband of Velma Hewitt, the UDP candidate who came fifth in the political race and who is a former officer of the local courts, Henderson told the attorneys involved that if they wished to make representations to have the local judges all recuse themselves from the case, they must do so in writing by Friday.

Meanwhile, Rivers, the newly appointed education minister in the PPM administration, has been given just two weeks to prepare her affidavit addressing the facts of the allegations challenging her qualification by the petitioner, who is represented by Steve McField.

Paul Keeble, who along with Grahame Hampson is representing Rivers, was only able to squeeze one extra week from Henderson, despite his original pleas for four weeks so they could consult with constitutional expert and lead counsel, Jeffery Jowell QC, in London. The judge pointed out the need to address the issue quickly but bent on his original seven days once a date was secured for mid-July.

The lawyers on both sides were instructed to have their skeleton arguments submitted to each other and the court by 12 July in preparation for the two-day hearing, which will decide whether or not Rivers is qualified.

It became apparent that Rivers may still hold a US passport during the directions hearing and that her lawyers will be arguing the case that the passport was “thrust upon her by birth” rather than an acquisition demonstrating any allegiance to another country as alleged.

The hearing move quickly as Henderson pushed the lawyers into action in front of a packed courtroom, where significant numbers of Rivers’ supporters from the Coalition for Cayman, the political platform on which she ran, as well as friends were in attendance, including Mervin Smith, Rivers' West Bay Running mate. John and Velma Hewitt and their supporters in West Bay were also in court for the hearing. The new Speaker of the House, Juliana O’Connor Connolly, now a member of the government, was also in attendance.

Aside from the stumbling block that Rivers has to cross in connection to her alleged possession of a valid US passport, she must also deal with a second ground in the petition that relates to her time resident overseas before the election.  It is no secret that Rivers was based in the UK between 2006 and 2009, when she was employed as a legal associate for a London law firm. However, she was also studying part-time.

The elections law requires that all candidates are primarily resident in Cayman during the seven years prior to any election they wish to contest. There are, however, a number of exemptions, one of which is for the purpose of study, but it is not clear if this also applies to those who were employed full-time while studying or just full-time students with part time jobs.

Be sure to follow coverage of the July hearing on CNS.

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Ex ERA boss still not officially answered charges

Ex ERA boss still not officially answered charges

| 18/06/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), Joey Ebanks, has still not entered any formal pleas to the catalogue of charges against him despite his recent appearance in the Grand Court. Ebanks is facing more than two dozen charges relating to allegations of theft and fraud during his time at the electricity regulator, all of which he has vehemently denied from various other public platforms aside from the courtroom dock. Appearing in the higher court Friday, Ebanks remained silent while his attorney asked for a three week adjournment to enable him to review the details of the multiple charges. Ebanks is expected to return to Grand Court to fix a trial date on 5 July.

His alleged offenses include obtaining property by deception relating to the purchase of several iPhones and iPads, amounting to almost $78,000. In addition, Ebanks, who recently ran for office in North Side while under investigation, is facing eight charges of making documents without authority and of obtaining property by deception, all of which are being handled in the Grand Court. Meanwhile, he also faces seven charges of theft relating to amounts under $5,000, which will be dealt with in Summary Court, and two drug related charges which will also be handled in the lower court.

During the recent election campaign, in which Ebanks was beaten by the independent member Ezzard Miller, Ebanks had suggested that the charges against him were part of a conspiracy and had expected all the charges against would be dropped once the election was over. However, this does not appear to be the case.

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No decisions re Tempura

No decisions re Tempura

| 18/06/2013 | 21 Comments

_DEW9187_2.jpg(CNS): Despite the Scotland Yard recommendation that the bungled investigation into alleged RCIPS corruption should itself be investigated, along with the role of very senior local officials, Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor has still not made a decision about how to deal with the on-going fall out of Operation Tempura. As numerous legal battles relating to the discredited enquiry continue in the courts, Taylor said he is still waiting on advice regarding the potential probe into the probe. It is not clear who has the legal authority to trigger a new enquiry, which the UK cops have recommended be undertaken by a neutral service unconnected with the original operation.

From the governor’s battle with the information commissioner to keep the investigation into a complaint about the enquiry under wraps, to the attorney general’s fight to keep the former lead investigating officer of Tempura, Martin Bridger, from using documents in another courtroom battle against him by former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan, the controversial enquiry continues to cost the Cayman taxpayer significant sums.

The latest twist, however, has become increasingly serious as the Metropolitan Police announced recently that they believed an enquiry into the events that triggered the probe was warranted. This was based on evidence given by Bridger, Kernohan and the former RCIPS chief superintendent John Jones. The ex-cops all say that former governor Stuart Jack, the current overseas territories security advisor, Larry Covington, and Cayman’s  sitting attorney general, Samuel Bulgin, were all aware of Kernohan’s decision to allow staff at Cayman Net News to make a late night entry into their place of work hunting for evidence.

The decision, according to Kernohan and Jones, to look for evidence that they believed may have pointed to a corrupt relationship between the late owner of the paper, Desmond Seales, and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis, based on allegations by two reporters at the paper, was made in the full knowledge of Jack, Covington and Bulgin.

Bridger claims that he was never told the crucial and fundamental fact that these three senior officials all knew of Kernohan’s decision and had given their tacit blessing. As a result, he now believes that the almost two year long and costly discredited Operation Tempura, which he triggered, along with the subsequent catalogue of issues would never have happened had he been aware of this.

Bridger recently filed a complaint with Scotland Yard, which had original oversight of the probe, with evidence suggesting he had been misled, which was backed up with statements from both Kernohan and Jones, who have pointed the finger at the three senior officials. Given the Met’s compromised position, however, the UK police force wrote to the current governor, Duncan Taylor, recommending that he begin an investigation using an external police service to find out if the evidence presented to them supports the allegations made by Bridger.

Answering enquiries from CNS last week, the governor’s office said no decision had yet been in this matter, despite the recommendations made by the Scotland Yard boss.

“The Governor is still awaiting receipt of the independent legal advice which he has commissioned in response to the letter from Commander Gibson of the Metropolitan Police,” officials said.

Sources in the UK state that the Metropolitan Police have real concerns as they believe that, if Bridger’s position is accurate, the London-based cops as well as Bridger were also misled. Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey has backed the position of Commander Allan Gibson, with whom Bridger filed his complaint, that an enquiry is needed to establish how Operation Tempura began.

It is not normally the remit of a governor to instigate a criminal investigation. In theory it should be David Baines as the RCISP commissioner that triggers the enquiry, but because of his own conflict he would need to ask an outside force, such as another OT territory's police service, to investigate what happened.

Bridger recently revealed that had Jack, Covington and Bulgin all told him that they were informed about Kernohan’s decision, there would never have been an operation Tempura, Kernohan and Jones would never have been suspended, the associate burglary case of Lyndon Martin would never have happened and the Grand Court Judge Alex Henderson would never have received a $1.275million payout from the public purse as he would never have been arrested, unlawfully or otherwise.

The former senior investigator has always claimed that he acted on advice of Andre Mondesir, legal counsel at the time, who now works at CIMA. The advice, he has said, was based on the position that Kernohan and Jones had instigated the entry into the newspaper without any authority, which both men have categorically denied and recorded the meetings they had where the issue was discussed with the three senior officials.

The issue has now become increasingly complicated as the current efforts of Attorney General Bulgin to prevent Bridger using documents in the wrongful dismissal case brought by Kernohan would need to be used in any enquiry which now points the finger of suspicion at Stuart Jack, Larry Covington and Bulgin himself.

With the ironies and conflicts mounting in this case, if a criminal investigation is launched over allegations that the UK police, the Tempura team and legal counsel were all misled, it would be hard to see how Covington and Bulgin could then continue in their respective offices.

As the twists and turns of Tempura continue almost four years after the investigation was shut down, the bill for the entirely innocent Cayman taxpayer continues to grow and a catalogue of incompetence by just about every official involved in the investigation, from start to finish and now beyond, continues to be revealed.

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Owner asks for public’s help to trace stolen car

Owner asks for public’s help to trace stolen car

| 18/06/2013 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The owner of a white Honda Civic that was stolen from George Town on Monday morning is appealing to the public to help him trace his car with his own all-points-bulletin. Although the police have not released any information about the stolen vehicle, the owner said that the car, registration 114-642, disappeared from Walkers Road opposite Vampt Motors, where it was parked in the early hours of 17 June sometime after 1am. The owner has reported the missing car to the RCIPS, which is conducting the investigation. Anyone who has since seen the white Honda Civic is asked to call George Town police station on 949-7777 and ask for Officer Michael Seal, badge # 439.

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Jamaican ganja activists plan road to law reform

Jamaican ganja activists plan road to law reform

| 18/06/2013 | 32 Comments

(lord gifford_0.JPGCNS): An organisation seeking to decriminalize the use of ganja in Jamaica is planning an international conference for September to urge more people to support the cause and push for the repeal the laws against its use.  "We need to stand up for our rights," attorney-at-law, Lord Anthony Gifford, told a press conference in Kingston last week when the event, organised by the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, was announced. Gifford, a UK hereditary peer who practices law in Jamaica and London, believes most Jamaicans will support decriminalization and the conference was aimed at starting a process of changing the law and encouraging government toact.

"We need to mobilize opinion, and I think Jamaican opinion is very favourable on the whole issue of the legalization of ganja, but we need to get up stand up, stand up for our rights," Gifford said whose interest in the plant began because of its medicinal qualities and his own bout with cancer.

"The Government has shown some sympathy to some decriminalization measures and expunging from criminal records but, as in all things, things don't happen until the people move and this conference will be a valuable tool for agitation," Gifford added.

According to the organisers, the Kingston-based conference will explore the scientific benefits and commercial opportunities of marijuana, and Paul Chang, the chairman of the coalition, said the laws of Jamaica do not match the practises of its people, in particular the religious practices of the Rastafarian movement.

Although the GLRC does not promote the use of ganja, especially by minors, it believes the plant is a sacrament to many people and, like tobacco and alcohol, should be taxed andregulated.

Gifford, who is a director of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, said the issue was a human rights one and there should not be a penalty for usage of marijuana in a moderate, responsible manner, as he urged Jamaicans to speak out.  “It makes no sense for people to be penalised … it’s their choice,” he said.

Assistant secretary of the Rastafari Millennium Council, Tzdhne Ishigyhd, questioned why the coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, and the poppy, which is used to make opium, are not illegal plants, but ganja is the only herb on the planet that is illegal.

While the world may have developed a perception of Jamaican society as ganja-tolerant, laws against its use have persisted because of the influence of the United States, which had for many years opposed its legalization. The history of ganja’s criminalisation is deeply tied up with the politics of difference and race and the American war on drugs. 

However, as the evidence mounts about the various medical and beneficial properties as well as the practical purposes for the use of the plant, ganja has been decriminalized in a number of American states. Its use for medical reasons is now legal in 18 states, as well as Washington DC, with another six are making plans for decriminalization. This legalisation is now fuelling business interest and another recent conference in New York saw Wall Street taking a particular interest in the plant and asking if cannabis will be the next big industry. 

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Cops to investigate Dr Frank’s arrest

Cops to investigate Dr Frank’s arrest

| 18/06/2013 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Following the rejection of the crown’s case against former Cabinet member and playwright Dr Frank McField by a magistrate recently, Police Commissioner David Baines has confirmed that an internal investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding his arrest and subsequent charges. Baines told McField in a short letter last week that his case raised “issues of serious concern”. Meanwhile, Sandra Catron, another outspoken local activist who won a judicial review against the police over an unlawful warrant, has written to the justice of the peace who signed it without having a clue what it was about to refrain from signing any more.

The two cases both raised serious questions about the conduct of the local police and are not dissimilar from many cases that have gone through the local courts where the behaviour of the local police has been called into question or demonstrated to be questionable at best and unlawful on some occasions. However, while many allegations have been made by people about the police, they have not always been so tenacious or in a position to defend themselves against possible unlawful acts by those serving in uniform or to directly take on the authorities so publicly.

However, following the dismissal of the case against Frank McField, when Magistrate Kirstyann Gunn accepted his 'no case to answer' submission part way through his summary court trial, he wrote to David Baines. McField asked for a public apology and some form of compensation as a result of what he said was a wrongful arrest and the way that both he and his partner were treated by RCIPS officers during an incident last year at McField’s George Town restaurant,  when officers appear to have acted outside of the law. 

Although falling far short of an apology or any compensation, the acknowledgement of the issues of concern and the questions raised is a step on that road. However, McField still has a long battled ahead as the police continue to investigate themselves. Internal police enquiries carried out by the Professional Standards Unit very rarely find against the RCIPS but McField is not likely to let the incident be swept under the carpet. Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, the senior officer tasked with dealing with the case, will be doing so under much greaterpublic scrutiny than is usually the case for internal enquiries.

Meanwhile, Catron has written to Louis Ebanks, the Justice of the Peace who signed a police warrant which police used to conduct an invasive search of her office, home and car in relation to a case of alleged harassment via an ICT network, asking him to stop signing any more warrants.

In a shocking revelation in the court during a judicial review of the warrant in Catron’s case, the JP admitted that he had signed it having absolutely no idea of what it was for, without seeing any evidence of a crime and simply because the police asked him to, as he had in every case for the last two decades. Despite this, the judge had made it clear that the JP should not suffer the consequences but that it should be the RCIPS and crown that should remain responsible for the consequences and any possible compensation paid to Catron.

When Catron realized this week that Ebanks was still signing warrants, she wrote to him asking that he refrain from doing so. She has copied her letter to the premier, who under his new portfolio has responsibility for issues relating to law and order, as well as the deputy governor asking them to address the situation and amend the Summary Jurisdiction Law (2006 Revision) to prevent the police from using this JP and others who are not familiar with the law. Catron said she will be beginning a campaign to get the law changed and prevent the use of JPs without legal experience from signing warrants and force police to use officers of the court.

See Baines' letter to McField and Catron’s letter to the JP posted below.

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