Archive for November 19th, 2013

Premier to take just four delegates to JMC

Premier to take just four delegates to JMC

| 19/11/2013 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin will be leading a small government delegation to Britain with him at the weekend when he leaves the Cayman Islands Saturday to attend the annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) in London. Wayne Panton is the only other minister on the trip, and three civil servants will also be going: Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose; the JMC “Sherpa”, Jennifer Ahearn; and Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush. The delegation will be gonefor just one week and there are no other trips planned to other countries by the government officials either before or after the London meeting, which is hosted by the FCO. The governor, Helen Kilpatrick, will also be attending the annual meeting.

The JMC is designed to bring leaders from the territories and the FCO’s OT minister and other UK cabinet officials together to provide a forum for the exchange of views on political and constitutional issues between the territories and the UK government.

“Our goal in the Cayman Islands is to build sustainable economies, create jobs and drive prosperity,” said McLaughlin. “Once we do these things, we can ensure a better quality of life for our citizens and visitors.”

The JMC takes place between the 25-29 November and discussions on strategies for promoting the security and issues such as good governance in all the overseas territories as well as economic diversification, attracting investment, vocational education and employment will be on the agenda. During the JMC, participants will also review and implement strategy and commitments in the 2012 White Paper ‘The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability’.

On Tuesday night the premier will host an invitation-only dinner for current and potential future Friends of Cayman at the InterContinental Hotel, Westminster, where he will deliver a speech and answer questions.

A major UK-Overseas Territories Business Forum will also be held alongside the JMC on 28 November. The event will provide an opportunity for the overseas territories delegates to meet with UK businesses and investors to explore opportunities in all of Britain’s territories.

The delegation will be gone for one week and will return to Cayman on Saturday, 30 November.

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Prison denies ignoring OCC

Prison denies ignoring OCC

| 19/11/2013 | 4 Comments

(CNS): The director of the local prison service has denied ignoring the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) following revelations yesterday that more than two years after recommendations were made on how to tackle the problem of phone use inside the jail the prison has still not installed jamming equipment. The prison boss said the prison had a zero tolerance policy to phone use and it was tackling the issue in different ways, as jamming did not live up to all the claims. If the prison was to use such equipment, the director said, it would need to ensure it would work properly and also get round the problem of having a telecommunications tower right outside the prison boundary.

Following the criticisms that the prisonhas been exceptionally slow and reluctant in adopting one of three important recommendations made by Nicola Williams, the complaints commissioner, the prison responded with an official statement denying that it was not attempting to address the outstanding recommendation made in October 2011.

Williams conducted the initial investigation as a result of a complaint about strip searches taking place at the women’s prison, allegedly as a result of the need to check for cell phones. In the subsequent report the commissioner warned that the prison faced the risk of legal challenges if it persisted with inappropriate and what appeared to be badly managed strip searching of inmates. She pointed out that trying to control the smuggling of smart phones and SIM cards was almost impossible and it would be easier and cheaper to prevent the use of cell phones in all the jails by jamming the signals in the prison areas instead of trying to find them all.

Neil Lavis, the director of the Cayman Islands Prison Service, said that he was working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to find cell phone jamming solutions that will best fit the needs of the local prison context and ensure best value for money. In the meantime, he said, there was a zero tolerance policy in the prisons against drugs and communications devices. Cell phones are considered contraband in the prisons and staff members are not allowed to have phones in their possession while on duty, he said, noting that the zero tolerance message had been received by both inmates and prison employees.

While there are many phone jamming products on the market, the prison director said that they did not all live up to the claims made in advertising brochures.

“They don’t always do what they say. If and when we do purchase something, we have to ensure that it’s the right fit for Cayman. That takes time,” Lavis said.

Given that Williams made the recommendations more than two years ago and imposed a deadline more than 19 months ago that has not been met, it certainly appears that finding the jamming equipment is indeed taking time.

Lavis also said that any jamming system that is put in place will need to work despite the telecommunications tower, which services both Digicel and LIME, located just outside the men’s prison at  Northward.

“The power from that mast negates the blocker. I have to get a blocker that works and isn’t in competition with that tower. What I don’t want to do is spend money on a system that doesn’t work. Money is limited, even more so now,” he said. “We must ensure value for money, which means waiting to see what the research tells us,” Lavis added.

The director pointed to other means by which the prison was attempting to tackle the phone problem.

“Our intelligence systems have improved and we’re getting a lot more finds than we used to,” he said, adding that the recommendation was not being ignored. “We’re responding to it by doing other things,” he said.

He said that these included properly calibrating the Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chair and using it with every prisoner that goes through reception and doing daily checks and searches. This was another criticism that the commissioner had made as she found that this expensive piece of equipment, which had been funded with a UK grant, was not being used to search inmates or visitors.

Despite recent reports of inmates using smart phones to post on Facebook from inside their jail cells, among other issues, Lavis said  that prisoners were now subject to more penalties if they were caught with cell phones or cards.

“If anyone is found with a cell phone, then straight away they are taken out of the general population, placed on report and given a heavy punishment,” he said.

As the decision over jamming continues to be discussed by officials at the FCO and the Home Affairs Ministry, which is now responsible for prisons, Lavis said that in the meantime, the policies and procedures that have been put in place to curtail the use and improve the detection of electronic devices would be “rigorously enforced” and those found to have contravened them will face the consequences.

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Burglar steals empty cash pan from GT gas station

Burglar steals empty cash pan from GT gas station

| 19/11/2013 | 10 Comments

(CNS): A burglar was left empty handed following a break-in at the Rubis gas station on Walkers Road at around 3am Tuesday morning. According to an RCIPS spokesperson the burglar ran off with an empty cash pan from the gas station store after he smashed the glass door by throwing a rock through it. The man who was wearing a cream coloured hoody entered through the broken door and stole the cashless pan before running off towards the Windsor Park area. No weapons were used and no one was injured and reports of a shot being fired were unfounded, the police stated.

Anyone who was in the area at the time and has any information which could assist the police is asked to call George Town police station on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477(TIPS).

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Hitchhiker robbed at gunpoint

Hitchhiker robbed at gunpoint

| 19/11/2013 | 54 Comments

(CNS): A 26-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint in the early hours of Tuesday morning after he accepted a lift from two unknown men, who were said to be in a jeep type vehicle. George Town detectives said the robbery took place in George Town after the men had picked up the victim in the Queen’s Court area of West Bay Road. The suspects, one of whom was believed to be in possession of a handgun, drove the man to Sparky Drive, where they robbed him of his cell phone and cash at around 2:45am. They then drove off leaving the uninjured man at the location, near Progressive Distributors

Police said the suspects were both described as dark skinned with Caymanian accents; one had dreadlocks and was wearing a white shirt while the second had a redbandana across his face.

Anyone who saw the man getting into the jeep type vehicle, or was in the area of Sparky Drive around the relevant time is asked to contact George Town CID on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477(TIPS).

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Cinema gets go ahead for late Sunday night showings

Cinema gets go ahead for late Sunday night showings

| 19/11/2013 | 50 Comments

(CNS): Changes to the Cinematograph (Amendment) Rules, 2013 passed in the Legislative Assembly on Monday will now allow the cinema to show movies until midnight on Sundays instead of having to stop at 9pm, facilitating an extra show. Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, who also has responsibility for the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI), which is now dealing with all forms of business licensing, said that amendments to the regulations also clarified the licence structure and both changing and increasing fees, which will see a minor increase to government coffers of $3,000 from the owners of the only cinema on the islands at Camana Bay.

Panton said the fee was being increased from $1,000 per annum to $1,500 and that the fee was per screen and not per movie house. He told his legislative colleagues, who backed the amendments, that more changes would be coming to the regulations in orderto standardize age-specific censoring in line with the MPEA regulations in the US.

The minister added that the DCI was continuing to review the entire licensing regime for local business with a view to improving the administrative functions and services to the commercial community.

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Kidnapper’s sentence cut

Kidnapper’s sentence cut

| 19/11/2013 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Clarification and correction: This story has been updated to correct an error in the name ofthe trial judge. The original trial was presided over by visting judge, Justice Harrison and not as previously and incorrectly stated Grand Court Justice Charles Quin — The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has reduced a ten year sentence handed down to a convicted kidnapper by two years following an in person appeal by the inmate from HMP Northward. Charles Webster (left) was ordered to serve a decade behind bars by the visting trial judge, in 2011 following his conviction on six counts for his part in the abduction, robbery and blackmail in Cayman’s first ever kidnap for ransom.

The appeal court said that the sentence was not manifestly high and they would have not interfered with the judge’s decision had the same judge not given a much lower sentence to one of Webster’s three co-conspirators, which had created a significant disparity.

Webster was one of four men involved in the kidnapping plot, in which Tyson Tatum was abducted and held against his will for almost two days in March 2010 before he was able to escape when the kidnappers inadvertently left him alone and had loosened his ties. The men had tried to extract a ransom of some $500,000 from Tatum’s family but his escape foiled the plot.

Webster was arrested shortly afterwards, along with co-conspirators Allan Kelly, Wespie Mullins and the man who was believed to be the mastermind behind the plot, Richard Hurlstone. However, Hurlstone was released on bail and he absconded, it is believed to Honduras, but Cayman has no extradition treaty with that country. Although he has never faced trial, the crown was granted leave to try him in his absence and the judge in the case indicated that, had he been found guilty, he would have been jailed for around fifteen years.

Mullins was also considered a major player in the plot and he and Hurlstone would have receive the lion’s share of the ransom money if the plot had been successful. But because he pleaded guilty, cooperated with the authorities and gave evidence against the criminal gang, he was given a hefty discount and ended up with just a five year sentence, compared to the ten years handed to both Webster and Kelly.

Given the fifty percent shorter sentence, Mullins has since been released, having served two thirds of his sentence before being paroled.

Webster argued before the appeal court judges this week that despite his low level involvement, his late entry into the plot and the various mitigating circumstances highlighted by the judge, the two men he said were the main protagonists in the plot are both free while he is looking at many more years in jailbefore being eligible for parole.

In the delivery of their decision Wednesday morning, when the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal reduced Webster’s sentence to eight years, it was the disparity between the sentence given to Webster compared to that of Mullins which the three justices said had to be addressed.

“But for the element of disparity on which he relies, I would not have thought it appropriate to interfere with a sentence of ten years but the judge's reasoning is not easy to follow,” said Sir John Chadwick, the president of the appeal panel, as he read the decision. He said that while Mullins should have got a discount for his guilty plea and his cooperation, it was questionable that it should have been as much as 50% of the sentence given to his co-conspirators. This, the higher court judge said, was an indication that something had gone wrong and that Webster had a legitimate grievance.

The appeal court found that if the judge had started with a sentence of around eight years or more for Mullins and discounted for his assistance, there was no reason why the judge should have started so much higher when he calculated the sentences handed down to Webster and Kelly. Allowing the appeal, they reduced the main sentence for abduction to eight years.

The judges also noted that Webster was not disadvantaged by not having a defence attorney represent him as he had set out his arguments in a clear and comprehensive memo on the grounds that he thought his sentence unduly high.

Although the court heard that Kelly, who also received a ten year sentence, had filed an appeal against the jail term, that appeal was understood to have been abandoned.

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More jail for sex offenders

More jail for sex offenders

| 19/11/2013 | 39 Comments

(CNS): Legislative Assembly members have unanimously backed a private members motion to introduce a mandatory minimum five year sentence for sex offences categorized as indecent assault on women and girls and to increase the maximum sentence that a judge can pass to 20 years. The proposal was presented to the parliament by the PPM’s veteran back-bencher and member for Bodden Town, Anthony Eden, and supported by his district colleague, Al Suckoo. It was largely in response to the community outrage over a six month sentence given to a father who had repeatedly molested his 8-year-old daughter over a two year period. Eden also noted the campaign by local activist Sandra Catron pressing legislators to introduce a mandatory minimum jail term.

During the presentation of his motion Eden referred to a number of cases in the courts this year involving exceptionally unpleasant cases of sexual abuse on children and teenagers and pointed to what appeared to be other unduly lenient sentences, given the gravity of the crimes.

The former health and human services minister said that while the parliament recognised the separation of powers between legislators who passed the laws and the judiciary which deals directlywith the administration of justice, it was still up to the elected arm of government, which represented the people, to send a message to the courts about their expectations when things got “out of hand”.

“It is time we, as leaders, get a grasp of what is happening in our islands,” Eden added.

The bill, which proposes to introduce a five year term for any crime falling under indecent assault, will tie the hands of judges when it comes to minor offences in the category. However, it would provide for harsher penalties for sex offences in circumstances that may fall short of rape but are equally as abhorrent, especially involving girls under 12.

The motion drew full support from across the legislative divide, with the opposition leader backing the call as well as both independent members. The government front bench also backed the bill wholeheartedly. The premier said that the goal was to send a clear message that this type of crime would not be tolerated and that during the review of the amendment to the penal code the whole category of sex offences would be reviewed, including offences against boys and men.

During the debate it was clear that all members were appalled by what they considered to be some of the manifestly lenient sentences handed down for serious sex offences recently committed against young girls. They also discussed the worrying prevalence of the crime and lamented the past reluctance to talk about the issues and the failure to deal with the people involved. Members related anecdotes where offenders got away with horrific sex crimes, including some who had hidden behind the clergy.

Several MLAs also raised the issue of the naming and shaming of offenders during the debate. They noted that while they appreciated the need to protect victims, the failure to name the sexual predators committing the crimes made it far easierfor these offenders to repeat their predatory behaviour when they were released from jail. 

According to the law, the media is prevented from publishing anything that may identify the victim of sexual abuse and when the perpetrator is a relative, as is the case in many of the sex crimes handled by the local courts, naming the offender could lead to the identification of a victim. Several members offered their support to some form of register as a means of protecting potentially new unsuspecting victims.

Following Attorney General Samuel Bulgin’s acknowledgment of the members' concerns, he offered his chamber's support to review the penal code and look at increasing the penalties. But the independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, warned the government’s lawyer that the LA's position went beyond a “willing to increase the penalties”, as Bulgin had described it. 

Miller said the attorney general needed “to see this as a set of instructions” from the legislators that he was to do something about it now. He called for the changes to come in the next sitting as this would be one piece of legislation that could be called an emergency and where government’s waiver of the 21 day rule for publication of a bill would be justified.

As he offered government’s formal support for the motion, the premier stated that it would move quickly on the proposals because the unanimous support of parliament was a powerful message.

Those sentiments had been noted earlier in the day when the independent member for East End, Arden McLean, had emphasised how powerful the Legislative Assembly was when all members worked together.

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International Men’s Day

International Men’s Day

| 19/11/2013 | 6 Comments

Too often we think of the males in our societies as the protectors, the providers; those who would provide safety and security. How often do we step back and truly look at the needs of boys and men when it comes to their safety and wellbeing? I would think it’s not something that we do automatically or even daily. I believe that this is the time that we must begin to look with our boys at ways of keeping them safe so that they will grow up to become role models for our future generations. 

And so I want to begin by congratulating the hard workers in my Ministry of Community Affairs for embracing this year’s International Men’s Day theme, ‘Keeping Men and Boys Safe’. I also commend the efforts of the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs which works to promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming throughout government, and also provide this message jointly on behalf of the Hon. Minister responsible for Gender Affairs, Tara Rivers.

We need to ensure that our boys are encouraged to stay in school and continue their education into college and beyond. The gender gap between boys’ and girls’ performance and attendance in schools is also an issue that the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs is working to address. We need to instil in them that they all deserve the opportunity to grow up to be healthy, happy, productive and successful in whatever future endeavours they choose. And we also need to teach them how to be fathers to their future children.

It is through the work and actions of active fathers and male role models that our boys will make the positive transition from boyhood to manhood.

But if we don’t also insist that men take care of their health, that transition may be for naught.

Research shows that men are least likely to seek help when it comes to their health issues. Many often only get medical attention after their health deteriorates to the point that it demands it or after significant prompting from the females in their lives. We need to develop a culture where our boys are taught that asking for help is a sign of strength and empowerment; not a sign of weakness.

One of the objectives this year is to address male suicides. Worldwide, more men kill themselves than do women. The World Health Organisation estimates that nearly 1 million people take their lives every year and that most of them are males. In developed countries, it is estimated that men are generally three to four times more likely to take their own lives.

Suicidal feelings and thoughts are often a result of people experiencing significant unhappiness and distress in their lives; but suicide is preventable. Prevention of suicide is not the exclusive responsibility of any one sector of our society. By paying attention to certain signs that might include evidence of deliberate self-harm, or the person in question expressing their thoughts to relatives, partners, or peers, we can potentially have the opportunity to intervene and save lives by offering appropriate and timely help and emotional support. We need to work with our boys and men to show them that there are other options when life seems to become too overwhelming. 

With International Men’s Day in mind, we also must address violence against men and boys. Unfortunately we see this in our own community. Whileour prison is filled with men and boys who got there by means of violence, and we all know of needless deaths that resulted from violence, we should not accept this as an inevitable fact of life. As a society, we can instead challenge the rigid masculine norms that promote and excuse aggression and have the potential to damage and limit both young men and women. The best way to prevent violent assaults on men is to change the behaviour of other men.  We can begin to shift this trend by teaching our boys and young men skills that they can use to resolve conflict more productively and manage their emotions in a healthier manner.

Today, International Men’s Day, a special dinner and a film screening will be held at 6.30pm at Grand Old House. The 20-minute local short film Boys’ Voice: International Men’s Day Celebration of Boyhood will feature interviews with 12 boys about their experiences and challenges. Providing our young men with opportunities such as this to express their feelings and dialogue on issues of importance to them is an important start to redefining what we determine as acceptable in our culture.

And be sure to tune in to Radio Cayman’s Talk Today shortly after noon for a roundtable discussion about International Men’s Day and more information on this year’s theme.

Please take some time out today and think about ways you can empower the boys and men in your life. Let’s also remember that gender equality is not  only about ensuring that women are equal to men,  but rather how we can work together to enhance opportunities, ensure access and practice fairness for all boys, girls, men and women. 

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Cops investigate two George Town robberies

Cops investigate two George Town robberies

| 19/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): At least one person was injured in the early hours of Tuesday morning in one of two robberies which happened in George Town. In the first incident a man was reportedly held up at gun point by a man who gave him a ride having picked him up on the West bay Road at around 3am. In a very brief report from the RCIPS the police said that no shots were fired and no one was hurt but they did not say what was taken from the victim or where he was left after he was robbed. Meanwhile, the police said that the second robbery occurred a few minutes later at a gas station on Walker's Road. One employee was injured from what appeared to be glass fragments but police did not explain how that had happened as they said no shots fired.

The police did not say what if anything was taken or how the robbery happened. There was no indication if the events were connected or if any arrests have been made. Police said that more information would be released later today.

Anyone that may have information about either of the incidents is asked to call George town police Station on 949 4222 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477(TIPS).

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