Archive for September 3rd, 2013

Breaking news … Robbery victims were targeted!

Breaking news … Robbery victims were targeted!

| 03/09/2013 | 17 Comments

Quote from Cayman 27’s news report … “Police say the victims of a terrifying armed robbery were specifically targeted and residents need not worry.’ The Inspector’s specific quote was, apparently, “I don’t think that the community has to be overly concerned, I believe they were in fact targeted.”

I find this utterly astounding – I would imagine that yes, they were targeted, just like the poor man returning home at 3am was targeted, and just like someone walking home from work or a restaurant or bar closing up for the night might be targeted.

None of this means that the wider community should not be overly concerned, given the amount of robberies and break-ins that have happened especially lately, not all of them, I might add, have been reported in the press – the police do seem to have very different statistics of actual break-ins than the news services have reported.

As we’re told not to worry because this poor family was targeted, just 24 hours later another robbery involving guns occurs, and I would imagine this location, in the heart of our ‘tourist district’, was also targeted. But I would suggest this in fact means that the wider community needs to become more alert and much more aware of their surroundings and put their guards up rather than see this as a cause to let our guards down and relax and breathe a sigh of relief, because the fact that they may have been targeted only means that we are all safe until in fact we might become targets!

I am pleased to see a positive story on the CCTV camerasand the impact they seem to be having but with all these advances and new technology and increased expenditure on the safety of the residents of and visitors to these islands, I can honestly not recall a time in our history when crime was as high as it is today – when we had to wonder whether our children could walk home from school or whether it was safe to leave your office or home after dark for fear of someone targeting you.

I agree with ‘Castor’, who commented on Sweet Pea’s recent viewpoint when he said, “Until citizens grow a set and step up to the plate and provide the authorities with information and help, these sort of shenanigan hoodlum activities will continue. Citizens (‘Real Caymanians,’ ‘Paper Caymanians’ and Permit Holders) need to do their moral and civic duty. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other family members, friends and acquaintances know who the culprits are.”  We do need to all become a lot more aware, we need to increase our guard, not decrease it, and we need to provide information when we are aware of any that may be helpful to the police in order that they can do their jobs more effectively.

Another thing ‘Castor’ said was that “bashing the police isn’t helpful”, and he’s right, and my intention in highlighting this inspector’s comment was not to bash the police but to say that we need to stop pretending that everything is OK or that it’s not something we need to worry about until it affects us or our families.  We must return to the time when we knew our neighbours and cared about them and took it upon ourselves to check on them if something seems amiss.  We need the police to enforce the law but we also need to provide them with the necessary community support in order for them to do so more efficiently and effectively.

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Former minister alleges bias by authorities

Former minister alleges bias by authorities

| 03/09/2013 | 39 Comments

(CNS): In what appears to be a catalogue of issues and questions surrounding an incident at a George Town restaurant back in May of last year, former minister and local playwright Dr Frank McField says he is facing further prejudice after being publicly humiliated by a local magistrate in court last week. McField, who was a Cabinet minister in the 2001-2005 UDP administration, has written to the chief justice complaining about the treatment that both he and his partner, Silvana Lewis, have faced since they were unlawfully arrested last year. The ongoing fallout from the incident, when police made an arrest under the music and dancing law, for which video footage exists showing the excessive force used against Lewis, continued last week when McField was assisting at the trial.

Lewis was arrested along with McField, and equipment that belonged to the couple was seized because the police believed the restaurant owners were breaking the law by playing music after midnight on a Saturday night – Sunday morning. However, the El Caboose restaurant, as it was known at the time, in McField Square, George Town, does not have a liquor license.

At the time of the incident, the restaurant was closed to customers and McField and Lewis were hosting a private dinner party when the police made the arrest, which was found to be unlawful in the case against McField after it was thrown out of court in June.

Even though the crown has only the same evidence against Lewis, it has continued with its prosecution of her, regardless of the question marks remaining around the legality of Lewis’ arrest, as well as that of McField.

In his letter to the country’s top judge, McField complained that he continues to be deprived, unlawfully and unconstitutionally, by the courts — and in particular Magistrate Kristy Gunn, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the RICP of his property. But the former minister, who has faced increasing controversy in recent years, also alleged prejudice and bias against him. McField claimed that as well as the music equipment not being returned, documents he needs for his own complaints against the RCIPS are being withheld by the magistrate.

He wrote that the Summary Court officer was prejudiced against him and that, as a former prosecutor, she “may perceive me as a person of questionable character”.

“Gunn spoke and shouted at me in a manner which was very disrespectful during her questioning my honesty and integrity,” McField said in the letter as he described an incident in the court. “I suspect I am not entitled to any special considerations in a court since I cannot appear before any court as a member of the Bar or the legal fraternity, nevertheless I am a Justice of the Peace of the Cayman Islands and as such should not have been treated by a Magistrate of this jurisdiction as if I was a common criminal,” he added.

“It might be widely believed that I have a chip on my shoulder but I have and will always be offended especially when persons in power demand respect but refuse to show that same respect when dealing with me. I too once carried the title of Honorable and that should be public knowledge even to the Honorable Magistrate who is not from this jurisdiction,” McField wrote. 

He said that the humiliation at the hands of the magistrate was witnessed by the defendant, crown counsel and the press, among others. Pointing to the mounting tensions in Cayman between expatriates and local people, McField as noted that colonialism “benign or not maintains a deceitful racial character which distorts the sense of justice of a people and a nation”, as he explained his reasons for writing to the chief justices with his concerns.

McField has also argued that the continued prosecution of Lewis is irreconcilable with the decision of the magistrate that the police had no lawful authority to seize the items which it is alleged Lewis was seeking to protect when she got into a tussle with the police and was arrested for resisting arrest over the allegation that she was breaking a law that did not apply given the circumstances.

“It would appear at least in logic that the assault had to be a part of the act of resisting since resisting is a physical act," McField wrote, as he appealed for the chief justice to intervene in what has been happening in the ongoing and increasingly controversial case.

The former minister said the assault charges against Lewis cannot stand if her resistance was as a result her “lawful right to resist unlawful arrest and injury to her dignity, liberty and health,” he added.

See police video footage of arrest here.

CNS Note: Since writing to the chief justice, Dr Frank McField informed CNS that he has discovered that there is nothing in the lawthat prevents evidence seized unlawfully being used against a defendant.

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Cops round up burglars

Cops round up burglars

| 03/09/2013 | 20 Comments

(CNS): As the number of break-ins and burglaries of homes and businesses in and around the capital in particular continue to escalate, the police rounded up two more suspects, both of whom were expected in court Tuesday. One man, aged 37, has been charged with four counts of burglary in connection with separate break-ins to commercial premises. The crimes took place at the Cabana Bar, Uncle Bills, Kirk Marine and The Wharf restaurant between 9 – 21 August. A 40-year-old woman has also been arrested and charged with one count of burglary in connection with an incident in Courts Road, which occurred overnight 30 – 31 July.

There has been a resurgence recently in more violent crimes, with several robberies and muggings, including a frightening home invasion in Savannah, a late night robbery on Seven Mile Beach and a street mugging of a woman in broad daylight in the downtown George Town area. However, police are still battling rising burglaries. At the end of June police said that 262 burglaries had been reported in the first half of this year alone, representing an 8% increase in the crime.

Recent public meetings with the police and residents in the capital have revealed growing frustrations in the community that burglaries are out of control. As the figures for burglaries exceed more than one per day, CNS received reports Tuesday morning from readers that there were two more daylight break-ins on Saturday morning in a street off Walkers Road, which were later confirmed by police.

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Miller calls for PAC changes

Miller calls for PAC changes

| 03/09/2013 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Ezzard Miller has added his voice to that of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and others that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman, Roy McTaggart, a Coalition for Cayman (C4C) member of government, should resign from the committee as a result of his recent temporary stint as finance minister. However, the North Side independent member is finding no more common ground with the UDP leader, as he says Bush should not be on the committee either because most of the reports that the committee will scrutinize in the immediate future are based on problems presided over by Bush, the former finance minister. 

The controversies of who should serve on PAC and who should remain on it began on Swearing in Day, when the PPM selected Bush and three PPM members, as well as McTaggart, who was at the time on the opposition benches, as chair of the critical committee.

Objections over the weight of the committee led to Anthony Eden stepping aside and allowed Winston Connolly, another C4C member who had already agreed to sit in government, to be nominated. Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean were both nominated by the opposition leader to sit alongside the two C4C members but the government benches rejected the two independent members in favour of PPM backbenchers, Joey Hew and Al Suckoo.

After McTaggart agreed to join the government shortly after the first day in the Legislative Assembly, the premier indicated that the committee’s line-up may need to change. However, Premier Alden McLaughlin has not yet addressed that issue, and following the swearing in of both McTaggart and Connolly as temporary Cabinet ministers, which triggered calls for the chair to step aside, McLaughlin told CNS he did not feel it was necessary. He said there would be no conflict created by the men serving as ministers because the committee would be focused on the work of the previous administration.

Miller, a former PAC chair, took an aggressive stance when he was in post and tried to force finance chiefs to follow the law or risk prosecution, but he resigned in frustration after his attempts to get the government accounts in order were not supported by the necessary agencies of his fellow committee members. He disagrees with the premier and has called for McTaggart to resign.

Miller said that after the C4C member joined government he should have already stepped down, but since being sworn in as a finance minister his position is even more untenable.

“I would never have allowed myself to be in that position,” he said, adding that McTaggart should not have accepted even the position of councillor in the finance ministry, never mind as a temporary minister, if he wanted to continue heading up the committee, the primary objective of which is to scrutinize government finances.

“Both the PPM and the C4C candidates ran on an election promise of integrity and transparency but I doubt that they are doing much of what they promised.”

The North Side representative also noted that the PPM's insistence that the former premier and UDP leader, McKeeva Bush, sit on the committee was inexplicable because of the obvious conflict, given the controversy surrounding his time in office and, in particular, regarding public spending and the management of cash. He noted that, despite the mess now facing government over PAC, he would not be offering to bail government out as long as Bush is on the committee.

“I was nominated and the government benches were all instructed not to vote for myself or Arden McLean, the other independent member who was also nominated, but for the former premier instead, so it is up to the new government to sort this out.”

Bush has also accused the new premier of skewering the committee and loading it with government members. He said the claim that the government members have to look at the expenditure of the past four years so they are not conflicted was a very “poor excuse” and was not relevant to the work of PAC.

“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 said. “And accordingly, what happened was that none of their accounts for that time got audited.”

Bush pointed to the difficulties that were then faced regarding the late audits and he auditor general’s position that the missing years’ accounts were irrelevant and a waste of time and public 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,” the opposition leader recalled.

“There is no excuse for the premier, in the face of what is right and proper for good governance to be maintained, which he swore he would adhere to, in the appointment to and management of the PAC for government  ministers and or councillors,” who, he said, dominated the committee.

Bush also queried if it was the premier’s prerogative to dominate the appointment of committee members, adding that if he had set it that way people would have accused him of being a dictator.

Although the chair has not made any formal announcement about the next open session of PAC or if there are any planned changes to re-balance what is a government dominated committee, the opposition leader confirmed that he had been notified that PAC would be holding a public meeting at the Legislative Assembly on 18 September.

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