Archive for October 11th, 2013

Witness reveals deal with AG over robbery evidence

Witness reveals deal with AG over robbery evidence

| 11/10/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A key witness and co-conspirator in the WestStar robbery which took place at the TV company’s George Town headquarters in May 2012 has revealed that he was threatened with transfer to HMP Northward where his enemies are all incarcerated if he refused to sign an offer regarding his evidence. Marlon Dillon who is the principal prosecution witness in the case against Andre Burton, David Tamassa, George Mignot and Ryan Edwards all of whom are charged with the robbery said the offer came from the Attorney General in January. He was told his family would be relocated outside of Cayman and he would receive a more lenient sentence for his part in the crime in exchange for his testimony.

Dillon told the court as the trial continued this week: "It was unfair for me to take the wrap for everything and so I trusted the police with my safety."

The court heard Dillon say that the interview where the deal was made was not recorded. He said that only his wife, police officer DC Rachel Johnson and two other RCIPS officers were present with him during the discussion.

As a result of the revelations the defence attorneys representing the four accused men pressed the crown for disclosure of the details of this private meeting allegedly held between the authorities and their witness. Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Trevor Ward QC said that efforts had been made to disclose all information received from the RCIPS and that the prosecution would make further enquiries to try to find out if there were any other documents or notes that had not been disclosed.

Following the evidence given by Dillon that he played only a minor role in the heist by giving the robbers a lift to the location, the defence attorneys pointed to significant inconsistencies in his evidence to the police and in court. He was challenged directly about his identification of the defendants by defence attorney Nick Hoffman, representing Burton, who has denied any part in the robbery. Dillon, Hoffman suggested, was meant to be the getaway driver which is why he had returned to Cayman from Jamaica on the day of the crime.

Hoffman suggested to the court that Dillon had planned to travel in convoy with Ryan Edwards, who allegedly confessed to the RCIPS about his part in the robbery and others who were not the defendants in the dock. The attorney said Dillon was not being truthful about the identity of the real robbers.

However, telephone cell site evidence put before the court on Thursday, recording calls placed and received by the defendants supported some of the evidence given by Dillon concerning their locations.

The trial which is being conducted as a judge alone hearing and presided over by visiting judge, Justice Alistair Malcolm will continue next week in Grand Court One.


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Cops charge woman over North Side fires

Cops charge woman over North Side fires

| 11/10/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): An RCIPS spokesperson stated that a 46-year-old woman appeared in court on Friday morning in connection with arson charges. The police say the woman has been charged with three counts of arson in relation to fires which were reportedly set at a residence in Tidyman Lane in the district of North Side, in August and again this month — October. The police gave few details of the unamed woman’salleged crimes and did not say when she was arrested. However she has been remanded in custody until Friday, 18 October when she is expected to return to court.

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Tin foil foils offender tags

Tin foil foils offender tags

| 11/10/2013 | 20 Comments

(CNS): The independent member for North Side revealed that a local offender in his constituency was released on bail with an electronic tag only to commit another burglary days later after wrapping the device in aluminium foil, leaving the monitors unaware that he had left his home and was out stealing from someone else’s.  Ezzard Miller made the revelations during the budget debate in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, when he raised what he said was the critical issue of rising crime and the failures of the RCIPS in his constituency, where the problems of break-ins had reached unprecedented proportions.

He said both his North Side constituency and the neighbouring constituency of East End were under siege by burglars and teenagers tearing up the districts, yet government didn’t mention crime in the throne speech until page seven. Miller said the level of burglaries in his constituency are so high that even the local police station was broken into. He also described how recently one home was burgled for a second time in a matter of days while the owners were still waiting for a visit from the police for the first break-in.

“You would be hard pressed in my community today to find a single resident with any confidence in police,” he said. 

Among a long list of concerns, Miller pointed particularly to the return of repeat offenders on the streets of North Side that have been arrested and charged but are bailed and able to continue their habitual offending. He said repeat offenders were being tagged and returned to the community to wreak havoc, as he pointed to the ease with which they shake off the monitoring and how they even “cover them with plastic bags so they can go take conch out of season,” he added.

“We have peoplein our district with multiple convictions who are being punished in the community on electronic tag,” Miller told his legislative colleagues. “I don’t know where they are buying them from but the criminals have already figured out you can just wrap them up in foil paper and they can go out and commit crimes while the police think they are home.”

Following the concerns raised by the independent member, CNS contact the new home affairs ministry and the Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC) said that it was responsible for the Electronic Monitoring Programme, which operates an Electronic Monitoring Centre (EMC) in which staff members perform 24/7 monitoring of electronic monitoring clients using violation tracking software. But the centre said it is the responsibility of the RCIPS to enforce any violations.

Brent Finster, the director of Public Safety Communications, said there has been allegations that certain clients of the tagging programme are covering their devices with foil in an effort to defeat their effectiveness. 

“The DPSC is aware of two incidents in which RCIPS has dealt with Electronic Monitoring (EM) clients who were found with foil on their EM device,” he said. “The EM devices use a cellular network to transmit its location to the Electronic Monitoring Centre software.  The location is determined from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.  If a device wearer were to place foil over the device, the GPS signal is indeed blocked, however, terrestrial cellular radio waves are much stronger than GPS and in most cases cannot be defeated.”

He explained that the EM device can distinguish movement and if the device is moving but cannot receive a GPS signal because it is covered by foil for example the device will send an alert. 

“Electronic Monitoring Centre staff receive the alert, assess it, and either call the client by phone to have them step outside to get a better view of the satellites or they will cause the RCIPS to be dispatched to the client’s location,” Finster explained “Although DPSC management believes that the current EMD devices work well, a Request For Proposals is being drafted to solicit bids from security providers that can provide advanced technology to include detection of a device wrapped in foil,” he said, adding that in the end the tagging system still required a certain level of cooperation from the offenders.

Finster also stated that anyone who knows of people who are wearing tags that have deliberately attempted to defeat the devices, for the sake of the safety and security they should be reported to RCIPS.

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Protesters welcomed into LA

Protesters welcomed into LA

| 11/10/2013 | 123 Comments

(CNS): Around 100 people took to the streets Friday morning in George Town to protest the government’s planned changes to immigration law and policy. The men and women, both young and old, marched peacefully but loudly from the government’s new office accommodation building to the Legislative Assembly, where they were invited into the country’s parliament. The demonstration coincided with the debate on the budget speech but the premier, who noted the people’s right to express their concerns, was keen to ensure they came into the House, as he noted that protest is part of democracy.

Among the protestors was a young Caymanian postgraduate whose situation is typical of the experiences of many educated young people coming home and looking for work.  Nadine Hollis returned to Cayman this summer following the completion of her master’s degree in hospitality overseas but has not even been invited for interview for most of the numerous applications she has submitted. Nadine said she was joining the protest because of what she described as “the silent treatment” she was receiving from the local hotels, resorts and restaurants to which she had applied.

A clearly intelligent and articulate young woman, she said there were many jobs held by work permit holders that she could do if only an employer would give her a chance. Despite having a master’s degree, a qualification she said she had been advised to get by the very employers who now will not even interview her, Nadine made it clear she was willing to work as a server and start at the bottom.

“I am a realist and I am willing to work my way up,” she said. “I do not expect to get the job of general manager of a hotel. I just want a chance to start gaining proper employment experience and I am willing to take any job in the hospitality sector.”

However, she said that even after taking up the postgraduate study based on the advice she received from the sector, which also included some work placement in the tourism industry, the hotels all say they cannot give her work unless she has experience. This is a vicious circle which is impacting a significant number of local graduates.

Nadine expressed her concerns that the new immigration bill would merely compound the problems of unemployment among locals and make it even more difficult for them to get work. “I have seen work permit holders take up the jobs that I have applied for and that is a slap in the face,” she said, adding that she had little faith in the latest jobs drive as there was no evidence that these initiatives ever worked.

Older Caymanians who are also unemployed expressed different frustrations related to the abuse of the system by employers. The protesters are adamant that the problems they encounter are linked to the ease with which employers can get permits to employ cheap labour. Many believe that the number of expat workers that are currently here will now, under the new regime, be allowed to stay much longer and in somecases permanently because they will all be able to apply for PR.

Billy Adam, one of the organisers of the protest, said the proposals to revamp permanent residency did not address the fundamental problem as it relegated access to Caymanian status to points being ticked of a check list, like a car inspection. He lamented the lack of forward thinking and lack of vision about the growth of the local population and what government was trying to achieve. He also criticised the failure to apply the term limits to government employees and described it as a hole in the fence that government was trying to erect around immigration policy.

Many other protestors expressed their deep concern that allowing workers to stay longer would prolong the day when a local could get access to the jobs they held.

Speaking ahead of the march to the LA, Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA for North Side and the politician currently most opposed to the bill, said he was still hoping that the government would amend the bill. He said that the very notion that people were going to protest had spurred government to begin the town hall meetings, and the rally may push them further.

“Government should have consulted with the people first and not behind closed doors with business stakeholders, pandering to whatever it is that they want on the law," Miller said. "They should have asked you how to deal with the problem. This immigration bill is not a solution for you it is a solution for business interests.”

Thanking the crowd for coming out to demonstrate, Miller said it was important that Caymanians stand up for themselves and make it clear what they wanted.

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C4C begins promised government scrutiny

C4C begins promised government scrutiny

| 11/10/2013 | 31 Comments

(CNS): The Coalition for Cayman, the group that has always denied being a political party, is beginning its promised scrutiny of government and holding it to account. Despite having three of its members in the current administration and one in Cabinet, in its first submission to Cayman News Service’s Viewpoint section since the election, the group takes aim at the government’s immigration reform plans and is heavily critical of the move to allow 1,500 term limit exemption permit holders to apply for PR. C4C said that following its first public assessment of the immigration reform bill, it also plans to submit further comment for public discussion on the budget and other government policy.

Johan Moxam, one of the committee members, said C4C would be living up to its promise of objectivity and holding government accountable.

“We intend to put government policy and proposed legislation under the spotlight,” Moxam told CNS. “While we have no intention of criticising for the sake of it, we do intend to support when appropriate, advocate in the best interests of the country, scrutinize policy changes and legislative reform to ensure our leaders meet their numerous election promises. Where we feel that policy decisions will be detrimental to the country we will not hesitate to raise concerns and offer alternatives that we believe will be more beneficial to the citizens and residents of the Cayman Islands."

C4C, which stillinsists it is an advocacy group and not a political party, endorsed eight candidates in the 2013 general election campaign who were also members and backers of the group. Three of their candidates were successful and all three, after some false starts, eventually joined the PPM government, including Tara Rivers, who is now a member of Cabinet and closely involved with the immigration reform.

In their first public comment since their three candidates were returned to office, the group criticised the government’s Immigration Bill, stating that it had some strong concerns and pointing to what they believe is the misplaced belief in Cayman that guest workers should have a right to receive citizenship.

They took aim at plans to allow the 1,500 work permits holders who were not key employees to apply for PR. Taking the same position as the two independent members for North Side and East End, whom ironically they never endorsed during the campaign. C4C said the employers of these guest workers knew for seven years that they would need to replace those guest workers.

Dismissing government’s claim that if these 1,500 workers all departed at once it would cause significant economic hardship across the community, C4C said there were far more problems with the bill in general.

They said the proposed amendment to the PR system would create a costly administrative burden in the processing of all of the applications that can now be made for PR. They also claimed that there would be no incentive for employers to become true business partners for Cayman by properly providing employment, training, development and progression opportunities for Caymanians.

Removing the jobs from the pool of those available to Caymanians for longer, perhaps even permanently, would also create further problems for unemployment, the group stated, adding that allowing every guest worker the opportunity to apply for PR could create a larger pool of new citizens than even the mass status grants of 2004.

The group told government, and by extension its three candidates, to adopt a different approach by giving a final extension to the 1,500 guest workers and not allow them to apply for permanent residency. Employers, the C4C said, could then to use the final months to recruit replacement employees, with qualified Caymanians being given priority.

They suggested that this is the only provision in the bill that must be addressed as a matter of urgency and the remaining provisions could be held back to allow for more discussion and review.

“We think the government should re-consider the current proposed approach to immigration reform to one which again puts the primary objective of economic growth being to ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians,” the group advocated.

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Immigration reform

Immigration reform

| 11/10/2013 | 52 Comments

After a period of post-election downtime to allow the new government to settle in, the Coalition for Cayman is continuing its advocacy and public awareness role between now and the next election. We have established committees to correspond with each of the portfolios established by the new government. Our intention is, from time to time, to review the actions which are proposed or have been taken by the government and compare those to the promises made in the PPM manifesto.

We will report on any disparity as between what was promised and what is proposed or has been done. Our intention is also to study the issues of the day and provide each ministry with reasoned possible solutions to our country's problems crafted byprivate sector individuals who have knowledge in each specific area. The intention is to advocate for effective governance, to make the public aware of the policies (and their impact) being implemented and provide suggestions where appropriate.

Whilst we fully intend to hold government accountable to the promises they made, we have no intention of simply criticising the government for political point scoring. We believe this is an excellent way for government to get productive coordinated input from individuals and not simply from  private sector business driven organisations.

We have been reviewing immigration more generally as part of the portfolio it compromises. We will be publishing our views more generally at a later date. However, the urgent pace and scope of the current Immigration Bill has meant we needed to look at that in isolation as we have some strong concerns. To try and understand the rationale for the current Bill, we have taken a step back to consider what we think should be the overriding concerns.

1. Economic growth

The primary objective for any economic growth in the Cayman Islands should be to benefit Caymanians. This is achieved by working with true business partners to ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians. This is quite different than looking at economic growth simply to increase the country's GDP and economic activity. Unfocused growth which is not managed to provide the maximum benefit to the citizens can result in those citizens becoming increasingly left out. This will eventually lead to social disharmony.

2. Guest workers

In a perfectly planned economy there would be a national plan which forecasted the jobs of tomorrow and informed the schools and colleges of the exact category, number and timing of new jobs becoming available so these could be matched to school leavers/graduates of all levels, unskilled, skilled and professional. Once Caymanians were employed, employers would have comprehensive plans under which the necessary training was delivered and maintained by experienced staff (brought in on work permits if needed). This training would go hand in hand with a succession plan under which most guest workers were replaced by the Caymanian staff as and when they reached the acceptable level of experience. To be fair to the current government, we think that is where they are trying to go with the national workforce development department and acknowledge that they are essentially starting from scratch.

3. Permanent rights

There will always be some guest workers who would be invited to remain permanently in Cayman but these individuals should be limited to persons who:

  • are able to financially support themselves and their dependents;
  • are integral to the success of the business that employs them;
  • are integral to the national plan (including by creating direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians);
  • are integral to the establishment of a new industry;
  • have a positive impact on society

A number of factors over the last 10 years appear to have contributed to the belief that guest workers should have a right to receive citizenship. This simply is not the case. Citizenship in Cayman has always been something that a small proportion of guest workers have earned the privilege to apply for and there are good reasons why this should be the case.

When a work permit holder receives permanent residency with the right to work, the job they hold is generally permanently removed from the pool of job opportunities available to Caymanians. If it is not so removed, it is normally because that person has used their new status to move jobs or start their own business and compete with their original employer, usually a Caymanian.

The grant of permanent residency almost always then leads to citizenship. The granting of citizenship to a person permanently removes the job they occupy from the pool available to the other Caymanians. In addition, granting citizenship results not only in one person receiving citizenship, but generally results in that person and all of their current and future dependents receiving citizenship and therefore taking on the preferential treatment, together with other Caymanians, to direct employment and business ownership opportunities.

4. Term Limit Extension Permits (TLEP)

Approximately 1,500 work permits expired during the previous government administration. These guest workers were not key employees. The last government made a political decision to extend theses work permits for up to 2 years with the express condition that the additional 2 years could not be used to apply for permanent residency.

The employers of these guest workers, previously knew for 7 years that other persons would need to be hired to replace those guest workers. They were then given an additional two years to find replacement employees.

The current government is considering allowing the 1,500 employees to use their extended time to now allow them all to apply for permanent residency. The rationale appears to be that the impact of this number of workers leaving would cause hardship for their employers and the economy.

5. C4C's position

Does the current Government's proposal in dealing with these 1,500 guest workers ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians? The answer must be no, in fact there are a number of potential negative repercussions.

  • It will create an administrative burden to process applications and appeals. The cost of this to the Government should not be underestimated.
  • It will not provide any incentive for employers to become true business partners for Cayman by properly providing employment, training, development and progression opportunities for Caymanians.
  • Removing those jobs for an even longer period of time (perhaps permanently) from the pool of jobs available to Caymanians.
  • Potentially creating a much larger pool of new citizens than the mass status grants  of 2004. The Bill would inflate the current pool of around 600 key employees to potentially around 20,000 individuals entitled to apply for permanent residency.

C4C would encourage the current government to adopt the following approach in dealing with the current issue.

  • Final extension of 3 to 6 months for the current 1,500 guest workers who would not be given the right to apply for permanent residency.
  • Employers to use the final 3 to 6 months extension to recruit replacement employees with qualified Caymanians being given priority.
  • The only provisions in the Bill that need to be dealt with right now are the provisions to deal with the TLEPs. There is no urgency on the remaining provisions. We think the government should re-consider the current proposed approach to immigration reform to one which again puts the primary objective of economic growth being to ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians.

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Government’s immigration roadshow heads to BT

Government’s immigration roadshow heads to BT

| 11/10/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although government is making some headway with its efforts to address the opposition to what it believes is the misunderstanding about the proposed changes to the immigration law and policy, there are still many dissenters, and so the publicity machine is rolling on to Bodden Town. The premier and government officials will be in Bodden Town on Monday night for the next town hall meeting on the reform, starting at  7pm, Monday 14 October at the Bodden Town Civic Centre “Government is holding these meetings throughout the Cayman Islands to help constituents and residents understand the proposals being made in immigration reforms,” officials stated.

The forums are also presenting an opportunity for government to explain the details of a number of employment initiatives underway to find jobs for Caymanians.

An immigration amendment bill was submitted to the Legislative Assembly on Friday, 20 September as the first phase of the reform of the immigration policy of the Cayman Islands.

Meetings in the remaining three districts will be announced as dates are set, officials added as they urged the public to attend.

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Drug court continues to count successes

Drug court continues to count successes

| 11/10/2013 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Three more people who could have ended up behind bars are instead embarking on a fresh start following their graduation from the Drug Rehabilitation Court.  The latest graduates from the specialist criminal justice programme graduated last month and bring the total number of people with drug problems who have successfully completed the programme to 75 since that court was formally established. Talking about the strength of the court, which was down to the many dedicated people committed to the programme, the chief justice said that it turned lives around “rather than abandoning people to the cycle of recidivism that so often captures those who become addicted to drugs.”

The three graduates have achieved sustained sobriety, stable housing and full-time employment and were also required to either attend an educational institution or undertake volunteer work during their time inthe rehab programme.

The concept was conceived from as far back as 1998 by the Sentencing Advisory Council but formal efforts began in 2000 with the formation of an Implementation Committee, following a pilot project through the Summary Court. Today’s Drug Court, a sophisticated version of that pilot, is modelled on the Ontario court system with its legal framework in the local 2006 law.

“We had the invaluable assistance of Justice Paul Bentley (now deceased) and his entire team from Toronto (including his successor Justice Kofi Barnes), all of whom came twice at my request to put on workshops for our team,” Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said during the graduation. 

“Our team  included persons from all the relevant disciplines — the Probation Service, Drug Counselling and Treatment (including Caribbean Haven) , the Police, the Criminal Defence Bar, the Attorney General's Department (then responsible for prosecutions) , Legislative Drafting, the Drug Testing Laboratory, the Department of Mental Health at the Cayman Islands Hospital, and the Department of Labour and Employment.”

The development of the foundation of the court was rigorous, the chief justice said. Once a full understanding of the programme was gained with legislation in place, he was able to publicize the special rules of court under powers vested in him by the Drug Court Law, and a manual detailing its operations was drawn up in by Guilbard under his guidance.

“These measures together prescribe the very strict rules and protocols which must be followed and satisfied before a candidate may be graduated as having successfully completed the programme,” the CJ added, as he paid tribute to all the founding members. “I am sure that they share the satisfaction of, and pride in, our three latest programme graduates.”

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