Archive for May 14th, 2014

Lawyer pleads for exception

| 14/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A defence attorney urged a judge to make an exception in the mandatory minimum sentence for firearms possession when he pleaded the case for his 53-year-old client convicted of robbery. When John Cohen Ebanks was arrested ten days after a courier was robbed outside the offices of an insurance firm in George Town he not only admitted his part in the daylight heist he also revealed the identity of his co-conspirators and agreed to give evidence against them. Clyde Allen said his client’s significant cooperation, among other issues, amounted to exceptional circumstances and despite the mandatory jail term for possession of a gun, the court was able to use its discretion in some cases.

Although all firearms possession attracts a minimum sentence of ten years following conviction after trial and a potential discount down to seven years following an immediate guilty plea, judges can, if they feel the circumstances are truly exceptional, hand down a lesser term.

Ebanks is one of four men accused of plotting and then robbing a Sprint Courier driver in the parking lot of BritCay Insurance on Eastern Avenue in a joint enterprise in October 2012. The West Bay man admitted that he was involved in the planning and surveillance ahead of the heist and drove one of two cars used by the robbers to the scene. He said he took Manuel Carter, one of his co-defendants, to the car park of the insurance firm and waited while he held up the courier driver and took over CI$8,100 and US$500 in cash from him at gunpoint.

Having circled around during the daylight heist, Ebanks then picked Carter up and the two men fled the scene, abandoning the getaway car behind Puritan Cleaners across from the crime scene. They then ran on foot down to the waterfront, where they were collected by Brandon Liberal, who was driving the second car, and the men all headed back to West Bay. Both Carter and Liberal, who had denied their part in the heist, finally changed their pleas to guilty at the last minute on the morning their trial was scheduled to begin in February.

Ebanks had told police he received $1,000 from the loot as he did not know that Carter had actually taken over $8,500. The court heard he used the cash to pay debts and medical expenses for his sick mother as well as to buy cocaine. Ebanks is understood to have had a severe drug addiction but since his arrest he has been held on remand at George Town police station for more than 18 months and has dealt with his drug problem with no assistance from counsellors or health professionals.

The 53-year,old has been held at the George Town lock-up, which has been condemned by prison inspectors as unfit for human habitation, since October 2012 because of the risks he faces having agreed to give evidence against his co-conspirators. Although the police were able to arrest and find Carter as a result of the clues he left at the scene of the abandoned car, the police said that without Ebanks’ assistance they would not have been able to charge either Liberal or a fourth man in the case. Tariq Crawford has still not entered a plea to the charges in the case as a result of on-going disputes over his fitness to plead.

What was described as Ebanks’ significant assistance to the police was highlighted by his defence lawyer Clyde Allen when he appeared before Justice Charles Quin Wednesday on Ebanks’ behalf.

Following revelations by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards, QC, that the defendant had been cooperative throughout the entire time and agreed to give evidence against the others in the criminal gang, the judge thanked Ebanks for his willingness to cooperate and noted it was “a shame that other people didn’t have more courage” to do the same thing.

Allen pressed the point that if ever there was an exceptional circumstance with regards to the mandatory minimum sentence, this was the offender. The lawyer argued that sentences passed are often done so with deterrence in mind but in this case the judge could send a positive message about how co-operation can be rewarded as he noted the wider reluctance of anyone to cooperate in criminal cases in what is a very small jurisdiction.

Allen said his client had been very helpful to the police, despite the risks he faced, and noted that he hadcommitted the crime as a result of his need for money to pay medical bills and food for his sick mother, who has since died during Ebanks’ time on remand.

While the attorney accepted it was not an excuse for criminal behaviour, it was, nevertheless, the motive for Ebanks’ involvement. He also said his client had tried to pull out of the robbery at the last minute but he had been threatened by his co-conspirators if he tried “to chicken out”.

Allen also said that while his client had been part of the enterprise, he never had possession of the gun and was not the mastermind in the plot, just the driver. Ebanks also stated that when Liberal had handed Carter the gun to hold up the courier, he had warned him not to fire the weapon. As a result Ebanks was under the impression that no one would be shot and the gun was to frighten, but not hurt, the courier.

However, the judge noted that the only way to ensure no one gets shot was if no one had a gun.

The judge heard that while Ebanks was very co-operative and has been a model prisoner during his stay in the George Town lock-up, he has a long rap sheet. Ebanks was said to have 59 previous convictions for theft, burglary and drugs as a result of his battle with cocaine.

With one more defendant still to be dealt with in the case, Justice Quin adjourned the sentencing hearing Wednesday evening and said he would hand down his decision in July when the situation regarding Crawford, the fourth defendant in the case, was hopefully also resolved.

Ebanks was remanded back in custody to the George Town lock up.

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Airport denies new conflict

| 14/05/2014 | 55 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Airport Authority has denied any conflict in the appointment of a new HR boss. Having been in the spotlight recently with several high profile dismissals, staff shake-ups, allegations of possible board interference with employees, questions over an alleged cover up and the termination of the agency’s former CEO, concerns have been raised again over the appointment of the Chief Human Resources Officer. The previous choice by the airport management team for the HR job was denied a work permit but employees at the authority – who have asked not to be named – have also told CNS about new concerns over the appointment of David Bailey, who served on an interview panel for the Authority only a year ago.

However, the authority's new Chief Executive Officer, Albert Anderson, denied that Bailey’s former association as an interview panelist for the CIAA played any role in him being chosen for the role of CHRO.

“There is certainly no conflict of interest now. I don’t see how that would hold water. He was not a part of the panel during the selection process for this position,” said Anderson. He added that the existing board was not involved in the new appointment.

“The entire hiring process was handled separately by Deloitte and Touche as a matter of transparency and because we were not staffed properly in Human Resources at the time. Bailey has years of experience in the area of Human Resources and after his appointment we will be reverting to using our internal resources for new hires.”

It is not uncommon for companies to use firms such as Deloitte and Touche to source and recruit new employees, which is another role such firms play in addition to the business of accounting. Several calls to Deloitte’s offices to enquire about Bailey’s appointment and some of the criteria that went into selecting candidates for the position were unsuccessful.
It is unclear if any Caymanians applied for the job this time around and whether their qualifications were on par with the native New Zealander’s credentials. 

“I have had many years’ experience in Human Resources. In fact my career has been 20 odd years now. I also served in the Portfolio of the Services as a Human Resources Management Advisor before,” noted Bailey. He pointed out that he also has university level qualifications in the area of Human Resources from New Zealand.

When asked if he felt his appointment as CHRO had anything to with any bias as a result of his former roles an interview panelist for the CIAA nearly one year ago, Bailey said, “I have no comment to make at this point.”

He said he has been in his new role for just a couple of weeks and felt welcomed by the staff.

“There are challenges but things are going well,” he noted.

Last September the CIAA appointed an ex-pat HR boss from the Department of Tourism but this created a public outcry as the recruit was one of six people shortlisted for interview and the only non-Caymanian.

The airport defended its decision, stating that she was the best candidate and had agreed to recruit and mentor a Caymanian understudy to take the post before the end of her two year contract. An FOI request later revealed that there did not appear to be much between the selected ex-pat candidate and a local HR professional and soon after the work-permit application was refused.

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Smokers urged to sign up for quitting course

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(CNS): The Public Health Department is introducing a new programme to help local smokers kick the nicotine habit. The ‘I Can Quit’ smoking cessation seven week course begins next month and aims to help those struggling with one of the most difficult health threatening habits to kick. Working in tandem with support from key healthcare providers the programme will help smokers who want to quit develop the skills to help them put out those cigarettes once and for all. Quitting smoking is one of the most powerful changes a person can make for their health, but it’s not easy, Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health acknowledged.

“Even fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s Report linking cigarette smoking to a variety of cancers, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease around the world killing nearly six million each year," the public health expert stated. "The most recent Surgeon General’s Report, released in January 2014, recommends providing access to cessation treatments, and expanding cessation services for all smokers in primary and specialty care settings. This year, for World No Tobacco Day, this is our renewed commitment,” Dr Kumar added.

Scheduled to begin on 4 June 2014, the programme will run for seven weeks on Wednesdays from 5:30pm to 6: 30 pm, at the Public Health Department. Officials are encouraging all interested persons to get registered so that they can be offered appropriate support. The programme will supply participants with educational resources and the provision of prescription medication if required, helping with the motivation to quit, avoiding triggers, stopping aids and strategies to keep tobacco free. The course will also test participants carbon monoxide levels and blood pressure so they can see the rapid improvements that stopping smoking brings.

“Developing the skills necessary to identify smoking triggers and conquer them, coping with withdrawal symptoms, the provision of medications to help quit the addiction, and general support, are some of the key features of this programme,” said Therese Prehay, Health Promotion Officer of the Public Health Department.

To register interested persons should contact Sarah Hetley in the Public Health Department on tel. 244-2889, or email. . The programme will cater to a maximum of 15 participants on a first come first served basis. as well as covering all aspects of the process of quitting smoking, from recognising smoking triggers to the physical discomforts of quitting, and strategies for success, those who successfully quit will have a support group to help prevent relapse.

The course is structured as follows:

Week 1
• Programme Overview
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Issuing participant with educational resource packages
• Provision of prescription medication if required

Week 2
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• The dangers of smoking versus the benefits of quitting
• Identifying your motive for quitting

Week 3
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Identification of your  triggers (activity to determine triggers)
• Smoking cessation aids 

Week 4
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Strategies for quitting
• Quit smoking
• Referrals for individual counselling as deemed necessary

Week 5
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Coping with side effects

Week 6
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Skills to develop dealing with anxiety and boredom

Week 7
• Baseline testing  (Carbon Monoxide and Blood Pressure)
• Prevention of  relapse

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Budget due Wednesday week

| 14/05/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Government is planning to deliver its 2014/15 budget next Wednesday if all goes well with the UK. Richard Holmwood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s economic advisor is expected in the Cayman Islands this week to look over the PPM government’s second annual budget since being elected. If the FCO gives the nod the finance minister, Marco Archer is expected to reveal the spending plan for the next financial year on 21 May. Officials believe the budget debate will then begin on Monday 26 followed by the finance committee meeting to scrutinize what is expected to be well over a half billion in government spending. 

Although Archer has said there will be no major new tax hikes directors fees and some adjustments may see the tax burden increase further on the private sector. However, the government is also promising cuts in spending despite the amount of money currently being allocated to pricey extras over and above the usual cost of running government such as the money on consultants, business cases and environment and engineering studies for the cruise port, the airport and the George town landfill.

Archer will also reveal how well government did in meeting its spending and earnings targets for the 2013/14 financial year and to reveal whether or not the government has reached is more than $100million anticipated surplus which it will be expected to match again this coming year.
Be sure to check CNS next week for full coverage of the budget, debate and finance committee as it happens in the Legislative Assembly.


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Three high school teens arrested for gang rape

| 14/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Three boys aged 17 from an unidentified local high school have been arrested by police over allegations of a gang rape on a 16 year old girl who is said to attend the same school. Officials from the RCIPS have yet to confirm details of the arrest but other sources tell CNS that the incident allegedly occurred earlier this month at a downtown George Town car park. It is understood that the incident happened on Saturday night 3 May but was not reported to police until the following week. The boys who were arrested have been released on police bail.

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Cop car crashes with prisoner on board

| 14/05/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS): A police car which was carrying a prisoner to HMP Northward crashed on Tuesday evening on Crew Road near Clarence Drive at around 6:46pm, an RCIPS spokesperson has confirmed. The police vehicle with two officers and the prisoner reportedly collided with a car but the RCIPS has not provided details about how the crash occurred. Everyone involved was injured and they were all taken to the hospital. While the police and prisoner were released last night, the driver of the other private vehicle remains hospitalized. The crash was one of three road accidents around the area of George Town about 7pm last night, as a collision near Mango Tree on Crewe Road and one on Bobby Thompson Way caused traffic jams for drivers leaving the capital.

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Dart plans to make booze in Eastern Avenue

| 14/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Cayman Distributors Ltd part of the Dart Group has filed a planning application for a change of use at its George Town location on Eastern Avenue from storage to distillery. The wholesale and retail liquor company is now looking not only to sell and distribute booze in Cayman but to make it too. The plans are now available at the Planning Department for members of the public to examine and stakeholders in the area have until 28 May to object or offer support to the planning director. The application will also require re-zoning if the latest move by Dart in the local liquor business gets the OK. Read more and comment on CNS Business

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Chamber pushes privatization, warns about job cuts

| 14/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Following news that the deputy governor is moving forward with the next phase in the rationalization of the public sector, the Chamber of Commerce is pressing hard for privatization as a way of reducing the size of government. However, the Chamber’s president has also expressed concerns that the private sector must make room for local workers who lose their jobs in the shake-up. Johan Moxam told CNS Business that the private sector, which has been pushing for downsizing in government for decades, must play its part in providing work for those civil servants whose departments are sold, reduced, merged or cut to prevent further socio-economic problems in the local workforce. Read more on CNS Business

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UK court battle opens over Marley’s songs

| 14/05/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The High Court in London began hearing arguments Tuesday, in a copyright dispute over 13 songs by the late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley. The publisher Cayman Music is attempting to retrieve the rights to the songs, among them No Woman, No Cry. It claims they were not included when it sold some of its rights in 1992 to Chris Blackwell’s Blue Mountain Music, as Bob Marley had penned them under other people's names. But Blue Mountain says the songs were covered under the transfer deal. The case is centred on an agreement the two companies signed in 1992, 11 years after the music star died of cancer.

According to this is a landmark trial and Cayman is represented by Hugo Cuddigan the man who retrieved the rights to 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' for Matthew Fisher. Chris Blackwell's company is represented by eminent music barrister Sir Ian Mill QC..

Cayman, a music company, which was created by the late Danny Sims, was the original, long-standing publishers of Bob Marley and represented his catalogue from 1967 to late 1976. The defendants are the then publishing arm of Island Records and sometime publisher of various Bob Marley titles, from the mid 1970s to later in his career. Both publishers retain some of Bob Marley's work to the present day. Bob Marley returned to ex-manager Sims prior to his death.

The songs under dispute include Crazy Baldhead; Johnny Was; Natty Dread; No Woman No Cry; Positive Vibration; Rastaman Vibration; Rat Race; Rebel Music (Road Block); So Jah Seh; Them Belly Full; Want More; War; Who The Cap Fit.

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