Archive for August 26th, 2013

Unconfirmed seamen benefits to stop next month

| 26/08/2013 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Seamen's benefits that have not been certified will stop in one month's time, government officials have said as they encouraged those who have not yet submitted certificates to do so as quickly as possible. Government has extended the deadline for those retired seamen who receive the benefits by eleven more days to give almost a third of those listed a chance to respond before the grants are suspended. The Ministry of Community Affairs said the deadline to submit Seamen Continuation Certificates has passed, but with 30% of the certificates still outstanding, an extension has been made to 6 September. However, grants will be stopped by Thursday 26 September unless the relevant paperwork has been completed.

The new certificates along with an affidavit of income form must be filed by former seamen who want to continue receiving an ex gratia grant from government. 

“The objective of the certificates is not to deprive seamen of their payments, but to confirm those who need the benefits are getting them,” officials said, adding that the certificates are there to ensure that the ministry’s records concerning grant recipients are current.

Expressing his appreciation to the seamen who had already submitted their paperwork, Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the minister for community affairs, thanked them for helping to ensure accurate records management. “Such participation is vital to government accountability,” he added.

Going forward, continuation certificates will be issued every two years for recipients to complete and return to the ministry, the government stated, explaining that the certificates were implemented in February following recommendations by internal auditors to ensure accuracy and accountability.

Recipients are encouraged to contact the ministry whenever a change in their personal details occurs. Medical certificates are also required for those who are disabled or housebound, or those who travel overseas for extended period of time for medical purposes.

For more information, contact the ministry at 244-2424.

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Prevention and treatment focus of recovery month

| 26/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Government officials will be hoping to gain attention from the community next month on the pressing need for both the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. The theme for this year’s recovery month is Together on Pathways to Wellness and staff from the Department of Counseling Services are organising a number of activities and promotions aimed at lifting the social stigma that attaches to substance abusers and their families through a community-based effort to understand, address, and reduce these issues.

Women’s issues will receive particular emphasis, through a panel discussion that will air through the month on CIGTV (Westar Channel 20). Relevant articles will also be featured in the local press.

The month will kick off with a Family Fun Day, held at the John A. Cumber Primary School on Saturday, 7 September from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Planned activities include a friendly game of kickball, musical entertainment, children’s activities and more. To sign up for the kickball tournament, contact The Counselling Centre at 949-8789.

On Wednesday, 18 September, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., a group discussion: ‘Why Do People Numb?, at the Family Resource Centre, will aim to help audience members understand why people develop eating disorders, self-medicate, and use substances to numb their feelings. Children in attendance will be able to engage in self-esteem building activities.

Attendance is free. Dinner and childcare services will be provided.  Interested persons can contact 949-0006 to register.

Celebrations continue on Friday, 20 September, at the Harquail Theatre, when families are invited to attend a talent night filled with free entertainment. 

“Last year’s performances impressed all who attended, and the line-up for this year’s event promises to be equally entertaining,” FRC’s Programme Coordinator, Miriam Foster said.,
To wrap up the month’s activities, on Friday, 27 September, a banquet will recognise outstanding accomplishments of individuals recovering from substance abuse.  While all other events are free and open to the public, the banquet will be by invitation only, due to limited space. 

Encouraging community participation, Department of Counselling Services (DCS) Director Judith Seymour said, "It is extremely important that we acknowledge the significance of the changes that people make when they engage in a recovery process.  Celebrating the accomplishments of those community members in recovery every year, provides us with a wonderful opportunity to spread the positive message that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover."

For more information on Recovery Month events and how to get involved, contact the Counselling Centre at 949-8789, the Family Resource Centre at 949-0006 or Caribbean Haven Residential Centre at 947-9992.


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Bread roll fraud set for court return in October

| 26/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The baker whose conviction for swindling a local supermarket out of more than $300,000 worth of cinnamon rolls, spicy buns and bread loaves was overturned by the Court of Appeal will now return to court in October for a retrial. Dave Bryan (47), a Jamaican national, was also given conditional bail ahead of the new trial, in which the crown will once again try to prove that the former business partner of MLA Bernie Bush deliberately falsified invoices and conned Foster's Food Fair into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cayman Bakery for goods that were never delivered.

Defence attorney Margetta Facey-Clarke argued that the crown's case had been considerably weakened by the Court of Appeal's findings and said it was not fair to keep her client on remand for the two months or so before the case returns to the Grand Court.
With the courts in possession of the defendant's passport, a requirement for a $5,000 surety, an 8pm to 6am curfew and the need to answer bail at George Town police station twice per week, the judge said that once the individual standing surety for Bryan was checked out, he would be released from custody.
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Hit and run driver leaves child injured

| 26/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A man has been arrested after a hit and run incident involving a child on Sunday afternoon, 25 August, which was reported to the police officers at the West Bay station around 3:45pm that day. When the officers went to the the location on Nettie Rivers Lane, they did not see the vehicle or the child but they did observe blood and other evidence at the scene of the accident that may have come from the victim who was hit. Police said the victim was an 8-year-old boy who was treated at the hospital in George Town, where he was taken by private citizens. His injuries are not believed to be life threatening. One man was subsequently located and arrested, police said. .      

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CJ spends $360k to clarify power of JLSC

| 26/08/2013 | 15 Comments

(CNS): A Freedom of information request has revealed that the chief justice has so far spent $360,799.22 on legal fees from the court’s budget seeking a ruling regarding the power of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) established under the new constitution. Anthony Smellie filed a petition last year seeking clarity on the powers of the JLSC in relation to the appointment of judges past retirement age, disciplinary procedures and the general impact the commission has on the critical issue of the indpendence of thejudiciary. But the UK court declined to hear the petition and handed the case back to Cayman’s Grand Court, suggesting that was the appropriate place for the first hearing.

Following the decision, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie explained that the aim of his petition was to bring local provisions for judicial tenure and discipline in line with standards in the United Kingdom as a means of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.

“Great care will need to be taken as the next steps are explored,” the chief justice said, noting that having the matter resolved before the Privy Council would have been quicker, simpler and less costly than dealing with it locally because the matter may end up back with the Privy Council on appeal after it winds its way through the local court system.

The FOI request also revealed that Justice Alex Henerson, who continues on contract at present beyond the 60 years retirement age of other civil servants, as is common among the judiciary, currently earns CI$16.570.18 per month plus health and pension benefits.

See details of FOI request below.

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Sex assault on 5-year-old gets almost 3 years jail time

| 26/08/2013 | 29 Comments

(CNS): A 45-year-old man was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail by a judge on Friday afternoon after the court heard the details of the conviction for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old child in a chicken coop. The man, who cannot be named as he was the victim’s step-grandfather, admitted the single count of indecent assault as soon as he was arrested and claimed that it was the devil that had made himdo it. The crown had not pressed a charge of rape as there was no evidence of penetration and it was impossible for the crown to prove otherwise because, by law, the 5-year-old victim could not be sworn in to give evidence.

The crown accepted the man’s admission of indecent assault and also avoided any further trauma for the child, who had revealed the details of the incident to police officers, saying that he had put the “dirty thing” in her. 

The man, who lives in West bay but is a Honduran national married to a Caymanian, was given full credit for his guilty plea by the judge. The court was informed by defence counsel that without his admission there could have been little prospect of a conviction in the case as there was no other evidence besides the victim’s account. Since children so young cannot give evidence under oath, their testimony must be corroborated.

In this case, although the man’s wife, who is the child’s grandmother, said she found the defendant coming out of the chicken coup adjusting his trousers and saw the child bolt for the house, she did not witness the incident.

Visiting judge, Justice Malcolm Swift, found that the defendant had touched the child’s private parts with his penis, placing this into the more serious category of sexual assault, and despite making excuses for his conduct when he blamed the devil, according to the various reports he had shown remorse and shame. Although this was an isolated incident, there were significant aggravating features, including the child’s age and the fact that the man was in a position of trust.

The judge started his sentence in accordance with the guidelines at three years. He added a further year for the aggravating circumstances but with the reduction for a guilty plea he arrived at a total of two years and eight months.

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Cayman’s Leighton Thomas gets golden boot

| 26/08/2013 | 12 Comments

CNS): Although the Honduran team will leave the Cayman Islands the U15 CONCACAF development tournament champions, the Cayman team can be proud of their participation in the first contest of its kind on home soil. Not only did the whole team do well, losing only one game to fourth placed Bermuda, Leighton Thomas Jr held on to the 'golden boot' with the most individual goals of the competition even though Cayman did not qualify.  Meanwhile, Cayman’s national javelin record holder, Alex Pascal, picked up a gold medal at the weekend at the 2013 Panamerican Junior Championships when he threw 72.82 metres, breaking his own local record by almost a metre.

In the CONCACAF tournament final on Sunday, favourites Honduras defeated Guatemala 2-1. Both goals for Honduras were scored by Man of the Match Darixon Vuelto in the 6th and 51st minutes. The goal scorer for Guatemala was Mario Rodas in the 24th minute.

Meanwhile, earlier on Sunday afternoon El Salvador took 3rd place by defeating Bermuda 2-0 with goals by Henry Reyes in the 40th minute and Kevin Ramos in the 65th. The Man of the Match was Amar Lewis of Bermuda.

Other Tournament Awards went to Bermuda for fair play, the Golden Glove to Wilmer Martinez (Honduras) and the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament was awarded to Darixon Vuelto (Honduras).

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Hewitt appeals CJ’s ruling

| 26/08/2013 | 115 Comments

(CNS): Lawyers representing the petitioner who challenged the election of Tara Rivers to her West Bay seat have filed an appeal, despite indications in the constitution that the local Grand Court has the final word on challenges to elections. The lawyers pointed to what they say are at least nine “serious errors” by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in his judgment last month. Therefore, John Hewitt, the husband of Velma Hewitt, who ran as a UDP candidate against the Coalition for Cayman member but lost, is asking the Cayman islands Court of Appeal to review the arguments. Hewitt is asking for clarity on both Rivers’ US citizenship and passport and the finding that Allen & Overy law is an “educational establishment”.

The appeal also addresses section 66 of the Constitution on the basis that the original petition challenges referred to constitutional not election law issues, calling for a need for the CICA to intervene as constitutional interpretation must remain open to appeal.

Check back to CNS later for full details of the challenge.

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Government to address 4 years of budget changes

| 26/08/2013 | 14 Comments

CNS): The PPM government has called a meeting of the Legislative Assembly next week in order to address a number of issues, in particular the appropriation changes over the last four years which were not addressed under the UDP administration. The meeting is set for Wednesday, 4 September, when Finance Committee is expected to regularise the back appropriations for fiscal years 2009/10 through 2012/13. The UDP Government increased its budget for the 2011/12 fiscal year alone by nearly $50 million through supplementary appropriations that were never approved.

The Public Management and Finance Law requires that supplementary appropriation bills be brought to the Legislative Assembly for the particular fiscal year in which the changes are made. However, none have been brought to the House since 2009.

In addition, regarding an issue that has become a matter of controversy for the PPM, government also plans to elect a member of the opposition to fill a vacant seat on the Public Accounts Committee. The seat was vacated recently by Bodden Town PPM member Alva Suckoo following the decision of Coalition for Cayman member of the legislature, Roy McTaggart, to join the government back bench, thus unbalancing PAC in government’s favour. 

Suckoo reportedly stepped down to allow a member of the opposition to be appointed, which would return the political balance of three government members and two opposition MLAs. At present, the only non-government member is Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush after both independent members, Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller, were rejected by the government benches.

However, the recent swearing in of the two C4C members as temporary Cabinet members has raised legitimate questions about their continuing membership of the committee, which should be composed of non-executive members. Although government has denied that the appointment as temporary members of Cabinet will have any impact because the work of PAC over the next few months will focus on the previous administration, others have noted that it is not their political affiliation but their elevated position to the top table of government while also serving on a standing committee which bucks the usual parliamentary procedure.

McKeeva Bush, the UDP leader, said it was a “very poor excuse” and that during the previous PPM administration they had made the same excuse with very poor results.

“Unfortunately for good governance, the PPM made the same excuse between 2005-2009 when one of their members chaired the PAC and it was dominated by them,” he recalled.
“Accordingly, what happened was that none of their accounts for that time got audited. By the time the new PAC was appointed, the present auditor general wanted to say most, if not all, of those years' accounts were irrelevant and a waste of time and money to audit. Even though his predecessor Dan Duguay had said there was over $60 million that was unaccounted for in one of the PPM ministries.”

Bush said the idea that PAC was looking at reports based on the former administration was simply no excuse for the premier “in the face of what is right and proper for good governance” to appoint for government ministers and or councillors, such as McTaggart and Connolly, to the committee. Had he been at the helm of government and this happened, he would have been widely criticised,Bush said.

When the House meets 4 September, Deputy Speaker Anthony Eden will preside over the session as Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly will be overseas on one of her oft criticised jaunts for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. For this year’s conference O’Connor-Connolly will be travelling to Johannesburg, South Africa, where she will be from 28 August to 6 September.

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Gunman handed 13 years

| 26/08/2013 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Acting Judge Marva MacDonald-Bishop sentenced 37-year-old Leighton Griffin Rankine Jr to 13 years imprisonment Friday for multiple charges stemming from an incident in the Grand Pavillion parking lot on West Bay Road last February. Rankine was found guilty on counts of assault, wounding with intent, unlawful use of a firearm and the possession of an unlicensed firearm after his trial in June. The judge said that although the maximum penalty for wounding with intent was life imprisonment, she did not feel the need for a “manifestly excessive” sentence. The presiding judge accepted the convict's four children as a mitigating factor as she understood he played a significant role in their welfare.

Defence attorney Clyde Allen expressed his concern that his client not be penalized for his not guilty plea due to his inability to recollect the events of that night.

During the altercation between Rankine and the two complainants, Jordan McLean and Joylon Fredericks, he suffered injuries from a kick to the face, which left him unconscious. The judge found that he was "the author of his own misfortune" due to his heinous acts that night after partying and drinking.

MacDonald-Bishop told the court that Rankine had a right to plead his innocence and test the crown's evidence due to his lack of memory but did not find this to be a factor to go below the minimum requirement for sentencing.

The judge said that Rankine could not be seen as a man of good character because of his previous violent convictions. She added that this was an aggravating feature to the case, along with the use of a firearm in a public place, which was easily accessed from his car. The judge told him that he acted deliberately and in a calculated manner. She continued, "You used it on a defenceless person. They were not armed."

Rankine was sent back to prison, with his sentences to run concurrent with the 13 years imposed for the wounding with intent, but he was advised to make the most of this rehabilitative opportunity for his drugs habits.

The judge also questioned how he was still able to access illegal substances while in prison and said "something needs to be done" about this issue inside of the prison.

The judge said Rankine's sentence should act as a deterrent to those walking with firearms because of the small size of the island and how dangerous it is to the community.

Rankine, had escaped an attempted murder rap because the judge had decided following his trial that he had not intended to kill anyone when he opened fire in the West Bay Road car park, near to a popular local nightclub. Police witnesses testified during the trial that Rankine was still holding the handgun when they arrived on the scene and saw that one man had been shot.

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