Archive for June 19th, 2014

NHDT director guilty of fraud

| 19/06/2014 | 59 Comments

(CNS): The former deputy chairman and director of the National Housing and Development Trust board has been convicted on seven deception offences. Edlin Myles (62), who also works at a local insurance firm and was once a prominent member of the United Democratic Party, was found guilty by a jury of six women and one man Thursday, having begun their deliberations Wednesday. Myles was accused of conning applicants of the government's housing scheme into buying insurance they didn’t need. Following the verdict, the judge bailed the convicted man until his sentencing hearing, which is set for 26 June, when his defence attorney will be arguing for a community-based punishment. 

Myles was originally charged with nine counts of gaining property or a pecuniary advantage by deception in connection with life insurance policies he sold to potential clients of the NHDT who had applied for affordable homes in East End but the judge directed the jury to find him not guilty on two counts owing to a lack of evidence on those particular allegations relating to one of the applicants.

The jury was asked to consider the remaining seven charges and found that he had conned the home applicants as the crown claimed.

In its case against Myles the crown claimed he had made applicants who were waiting to hear if they had been approved for a home believe that the success was dependent on buying policies from him. Trevor Ward, QC, the deputy director of public prosecutions who prosecuted the case, said that Myles had told the hopeful applicants that they had been approved for homes, when they had not, and in at least one case that the government would be paying for the policy for the first year before later telling them that plan had changed.

The victims all claimed he had told them they needed to take out the policies to secure their homes and the crown said Myles had done so knowing that the clients would not need any insurance until they had been approved for a house by the Trust and only after a bank had also approved their mortgage loan applications.

In four out of the five cases the applicants were never approved, regardless of Myles' claims and after they had paid some four months of premiums on the unnecessary policies. The prosecution said that these were people who could ill afford such an outlay and in one case an applicant so convinced that his housing application approval was dependent on the insurance cover sold by Myles he borrowed money to pay it.

Myles had denied the allegations, and although he admitted he had sold the policies to the applicants, he had done so honestly. He said he had not tried to trick the clients but had merely offered them policies and never said their application was dependent on the policies or that they were under any obligation to buy the policies at that time or even from him. However, the jury was not convinced and found him guilty as charged on seven of the nine counts.

Although Myles was originally arrested on anti-corruption law offences as well as four counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and three counts of gaining property by deception, the corruption charges were later dropped.

During his directions the judge made a point to the jury that although they may believe that Myles’ position on the Housing Trust board and his job as an insurance sales person would bring him into a conflict of interest when he called the clients of the trust to offer them insurance, he was not on trial over a possible conflict or misusing his position.

The judge made it clear that any abuse of that role they believed existed should not influence their decision on the actual charges before them, as he as he directed them in the law regarding the ingredients of the offences.

CNS understands that the corruption charges were dropped as a result of the anti-corruption law which appears not to apply to anyone sitting on government company boards. Questions have been submitted to Cabinet by CNS about the legislation and concerns that it may not be fit for purpose as not only does it not cover board members, the definition of a public officer regarding employees in government companies and statutory authorities is also in doubt.

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Let’s support our local criminals

| 19/06/2014 | 39 Comments

This seems to be the agenda of our CI government officials and the HM Prison Budget. I highly doubt I am the only one appalled by the fact that an inmate who would typically live on less that CI$20,000 per year is commanding in excess of CI$60,000 per year from the public piggy bank. Let’s compare this figure to the annual salaries of a few important government posts: teachers typically make under CI$38,000 per year, whilst police and customs officers get about the same.

Why is it that our government feels that after they lock up a criminal they are to provide them with all the necessary amenities to keep them happy and comfortable? Most countries find many ways of making a fantastic income from prison labor.

Why are we HIRING people to repair, maintain and rebuild dilapidated prison buildings when we have 100+ capable male hands rolling spliffs and playing dominos until lights-out each evening!? These same men could be put to work and taught to do things like service government vehicles (under supervision obviously). Or better yet, put a block factory at Northward. Since everyone is chewing at Flowers recently, why not have prisoners build the blocks? That would seriously lower the cost of living for the free and give the incarcerated something constructive (literally!) to do on a daily basis and they could work-off this immense expense.

This is crazy! And so many are locked-up for stealing less than CI$1,000 worth of cash or valuables; now they are able to “legally rob” the tax-payers pockets of over CI$60,000 a year because of a backwards government system.

I’m appalled; this is horrible! Every year there is a scream in the air about the education budget and here we are with prisoners living off more than the free. How in the name of the world can one criminal cost more than a middle-class family? There are families living on CI$36,000 per year with two children, mortgages, bills, vehicles to maintain, groceries to buy, school lunches to pay for … and the list keeps growing, I’m just appalled.

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Pre school centres pressed to improve

| 19/06/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): With a wide range of standards in quality across pre-schools, early education centres, nurseries, kindergartens, day care and school reception classes, government is working through the registration or re-registration of existing centres under new more stringent guidelines and regulations. Progress reports released via an FOI requested by CNS have revealed some significant disparity of quality, with only half of the country’s pre-schools making the grade. According to the progress reports, problems range from environmental dangers at the facilities to poor learning and nurturing, where in some cases staff are not even speaking with the kids in their care.

Aware that there is a wide range of quality in early child care, the education ministry embarked on a project several years ago to improve standards and officials stated recently that the new registration process is moving forward following all of the first inspections of the relevant premises.

Senior Policy Advisor and Early Childhood Care and Education Manager, Carol Bennett, said there was some wide differences in standards.

“While wehave some centres that provide the very best in quality learning experiences, inspections and the work of the Ministry’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Unit tell us that, from an initial baseline review in 2013, roughly half of the centres have aspects where improvements are needed or where there are significant weaknesses,” she added.

Although some are doing very well and ready for registration, the inequalities and concerns at some centre are now the main focus of the unit. Government says early childhood education is a critical area and it wants to provide access to high quality care and education to all kids, regardless of income, background, special or additional education needs.

Following the inspections, a number of initiatives have been completed in an effort to meet the goals of the new registration regime. Officials from the education ministry said this included clear and agreed standards and guidance for centres to improve their practices. 

“Standards require strategies to help centres achieve the kind of results our children deserve,” said Mary Rodrigues, the ministries chief officer.

The ECCE Unit has worked with various other government agencies to implement the new standards relating to not just the safety and well-being of the children but the learning environment.The first group of early childhood centres that have been presented to the Education Council for re-registration are some of government’s own pre-school reception classes, which are the first to be reviewed

“We felt it was important to test the new registration process in this way,” said Bennett, who said it was an important quality assurance measure for reception classes to also participate.
All other pre-school care and education centres have been put on a schedule for re-registration depending on the expiration of their trade and business licences.

“There is also a period prior to the inspections where the early childhood centre can receive additional support to identify and rectify any issues that may hinder re-registration,” Tunisia Barnes, an ECCE officer said.

The facilities are evaluated according to care and education provision, premises and facilities, health and safety as well as the leadership and management. The ECCE Unit will continue with the re-registration schedule throughout the next three quarters with the goal of presenting all early childhood care to the Education Council before the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. 

Bennett explained that guidelines have been created to help pre-schools meet the needs of the children in their care.

“We know the range in quality of our centres is too wide. The information from the various agencies involved in the registration and re-registration processes is compiled in the Guidelines so that all stakeholders can be aware of standards and expectations for the centres,” she said. “Owners and managers of the ECCE centres may use the sample forms and policies in the document as templates for developing the requirements for their centres.  This document is a valuable tool for existing … owners and prospective owners”. 

Guidelines and other information can be accessed on the Ministry of Education’s website by following the “Education” link, and on to the “Early Childhood” page.

The guidelines and samples of reports are posted below.

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Child charged with burglary to appear in court

| 19/06/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): With the criminal roll call in Cayman getting younger and younger, police revealed Thursday that they have now charged a 12-year-old boy with burglary. The West Bay child was arrested and charged in connection with an incident that happened in that district last month but the RCIPS have not revealed the details of the boy’s alleged offences. The youngster is scheduled to appear in the court this morning.

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CI kids team wins top spot in regional dressage

| 19/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation is celebrating more success after the Cayman Kids Dressage Team learned that they had won the top spot in the Caribbean Equestrian Association’s 2014 Dressage Competition , last week. During the Cayman round in June, in the children’s category, Thea Millward and Zafira, competing in the training level category, had the highest score of the day with 74.2%. As well as taking the top spot in the children’s team, the pair won the children’s High Point Award for the day. Millward was joined in the team by Hannah Fowler and Seligkeit who scored 71.8% with Madeleine Aqart and Smart Racer in the same category finishing a whisper behind with 71.6%.

These scores were sufficient to give them first place in the children’s category, a spot that Cayman children’s team has occupied for the last three years.

“It is a great end to a long season for our Children’s Team to retain the top title in the CEA Dressage,” said CIEF President, Sharon Hinds said,. We are really proud of the progress all our riders are making and we believe we have an extremely solid foundation of current and upcoming talented riders who have really made their presence felt in the international arena this year.”

Over the last few weeks, FEI ‘I’ and USEF ‘S’ judge, Jeanne McDonald, has travelled to Barbados, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Cayman to judge children and adult dressage athletes in the CEA’s annual dressage competition. Riders could choose what tests to ride before the judge, from a collection of dressage tests designed by the United States Equestrian Federation.

Each rider was given a score by the judge and the top three scores in each of the children and adult categories were submitted as team scores for the country.

The adult team comprised Jessica McTaggart and Loris 7 who scored 71.935% in the 1st Level Test 3, a score which secured for her the adult High Point Award for the competition. McTaggart’s team mates included Tracey Surrey and SonRise David who competed in the Training Level and scored 63.2%, and Charlotte Hinds  and Monroe Carr who completed the 4th Level Test 1 and gained 60.429%. The competition in the adult category was stiff and these results took Cayman 4th place.

Aside from the top three scores for the team, Isabelle Smith and Ed came in 4th, Ashley van den Bol and Carmella came in 5th and Basil Humphries and Storm rounded off the class in 6th place.

In the adult 1st Level Test 3, Surrey and SonRise David followed Mctaggart’s first place on Loris 7, with Polly Serpell and Calidad in 3rd. Amara Thompson sported a huge smile in 4th as she brought her mare Roux back to the competition arena after a long period of recovery from injury. This left Regina Nowak and Leonora to bring up the rear in 5th place.

Phoebe Serpell and Sunday’s Edition took 1st place in the children’s 1st Level Test 3 with Anja van Genderen and Kartouche in 2nd and Fowler and Seligkeit in third. McTaggart  and Loris 7 on top form took the spot again in the adult 2nd Level Test 3 with Lexi Bodden and Relation in 2nd and  Polly Serpell with Partenon in 3rd and Calidad in 4th.

A National Dressage Show followed the CEA Dressage Show with lots of competition in the lower beginners’ classes. Old hand MeeganSlattery and Max took the 1st place in the USDF B Test with Eva Muspratt and Oscar in 2nd, Kayla Mannisto and Snow White in 3rd, Lara Humphries and Storm in 4th and Charlie Milgate and Amarilla in 5th. In the USDF C Test,  Muspratt and Oscar took first place, with Saskia Drake and Me & My Shadow in 2nd, Basil Humphries and Storm were 3rd, Slattery and Max in 4th, Abbey Swartz and Pony Up in 5th and Leah Alberga andTwinkle in 6th.

Although the season is over Hannah Fowler and Ashley van den Bol will be representing Cayman in an international dressage competition in the US in July and Polly Serpell will be the first ever Cayman equestrian to compete in the Youth Olympics which takes place in Nanjing in August.

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Screening helps in management of sickle cell

| 19/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman is joining other countries around the world today marking World Sickle Cell Day to raise awareness of the disease. There are 46 people with sickle in the Cayman Islands and the Public Health department says it screens, as well as diagnoses and helps people manage what can be a serious condition. Screening for high risk potential parents has been in place since the early 1970s and routine newborn screening was introduced in 1997. This has helped in early identification of sickle cell trait and the disease allowing for appropriate counselling and management. 

“It is important to test for sickle cell trait (carriers) – as this information can help parents make informed reproductive choices.  If someone has sickle cell trait, it is importantto know if one’s partner is also a carrier,” said Joy Merren, Genetics Coordinator at the Health Services Authority. “If both parents are sickle cell carriers, then with each pregnancy, there is a 25% risk of having a child with sickle cell disease. While sickle cell trait is mild, sickle cell disease is serious.”

A Sickle Cell Support Group meets four times a year. The dates and times will be announced two weeks prior to the meetings and the known patients are informed. Patients and families receive information on management of the disorder as well as support. The group meets at the Public Health Waiting Room. 

Sickle cell disease is an inherited chronic disorder that affects red blood cells. It has a worldwide distribution, and is one of the most common genetic disorders. Everyone has two genes that make haemoglobin. Normal red blood cells contain haemoglobin A, a protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. With sickle cell, there is a different form of protein, haemoglobin S and with the disease, both genes are affected, causing severe symptoms.

Normal red blood cells are round, flat and very flexible. However, when the oxygen comes out of the red blood cells of sickle cell disease, the cell becomes stiff and takes on the shape of a sickle – hence, the name. The sickle cells clump together, are not able to squeeze through the small blood vessels, and so the sickle cells get destroyed more quickly.  A normal red blood cell lives approximately 120 days but a sickle cell may only live 11 or 12 days.

When only one gene is affected, it is called sickle cell trait, or persons are called sickle cell carriers. Having sickle cell trait means that the person stays healthy under normal circumstances, and the main significance is that it can be passed on to one’s children. However, under certain extreme circumstances, a person with the trait may experience complications as if having sickle cell disease. Persons with just the trait cannot later develop the sickle cell disease.

A blood test can be done to determine if a person has the trait and when both parents are sickle cell carriers, with each pregnancy, there is a 25% chance of the child being completely free from sickle cell, a 50% chance of the child having the sickle cell trait, i.e., being a carrier and a 25% chance of the child having the disease. If only one parent is a carrier, then there is a 50% chance of the child being completely free of sickle cell a 50% chance of the trait but no chance of the child having the disease.

Symptoms associated with sickle cell disease include anaemia, jaundice and gallstones due to rapid breakdown of the red blood cells as well as painful swelling of fingers and toes in babies and painful attacks of joints, back and abdomen as there may be damage to the bone marrow. Infections may develop, such as pneumonia as well as leg ulcers because of less oxygen to the lower legs.

Along with the recommended immunizations and pneumococcal vaccines the disease is managed with penicillin, to help prevent serious infections, folic acid daily to help make new red cells as well as symptom specific drugs.

For further information, please contact Joy Merren, Genetics Coordinator, on 244-2630 at the Public Health Department.

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Kids and cops have fun in the sun

| 19/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) was having fun with kids and their families this week giving the youngsters a chance to discover something about the police on what should have been a family Fun Day held for the Discovery Day holiday. The bad weather delayed the event however and things went ahead at the George Town Cricket Field on Monday, 16 June. Activities included egg and spoon races, dominoes and board games as well as demonstrations by RCIPS, Fire Services and K9 unit.

There were also singing performances by students of St Ignatius High and George Town Primary School. The event was organized by RCIPS, in association with the Department of Children and Family Services’ Child Month committee and was held to celebrate the children of the Cayman Islands.

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Local woman escapes charges in US cop shootout

| 19/06/2014 | 35 Comments

(CNS): Following a dramatic shootout with Florida police during an escape from an armed robbery, a Caymanian woman has been released by the US authorities without charge. Bryna McLaughlin (30) was in the getaway car with JovannyPena (30), who faces a catalogue of charges from attempted murder of a cop to armed robbery after he held up an electronics store in Tampa. However, McLaughlin, originally from East End, will not be prosecuted, although she had been arrested on serious offences and was said to have been wearing a stocking mask over her head while she waited in a Jeep outside a Radio Shack store as Pena held customers and staff at gunpoint, stealing 90mobile phones.

When Pena fled the scene, McLaughlin was in the passenger seat as he tried to evade law enforcement. In his efforts to getaway the couple were involved in a dramatic high-speed chase with police. That  ended when Pena drove the car at and injured two deputies and other officers.

One of the officers fired at him and shot him in the chest. Pena was sufficiently recovered to appear in court Tuesday to plead not guilty.

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Jurors seek evidence review

| 19/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The six women and one man deciding the fate of the former director and deputy chair of the National Housing and Development Trust, Edlin Myles, made an unusual request Wednesday some two hours into their deliberations. The jury asked to review evidence from several crownwitnesses in the case, in which Myles is accused of conning housing trust applicants into buying insurance policies they didn't need. Following the judge's direction to the men and women in the morning, they retired for almost two hours to begin their discussions. However, they were back in the courtroom listening to a review of the testimony of one of the witnesses in the afternoon. 

After further deliberations, the jurors requested more reviews of witness testimony, and as a result, the judge adjourned the case until Thursday morning.

While Myles and his attorney, along with friends and family, waited in the court throughout the day, it became apparent by late afternoon that there would be no verdict in the case Wednesday. The foreman of the jury made a request to listen again to the evidence given by more of the witnesseswho claimed they were fraudulently sold insurance policies by Myles when he was on the Trust’s board.

The jury was sent home this evening at around 5pm by the judge with warnings not to discuss the case or their deliberations until they return to the court on Thursday morning at 10am. It is anticipated that they will then be given the opportunity to re-hear some of the evidence of three more crown witness, which will be read by court’s stenographers.

Myles is now facing seven counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage and obtaining property by deception rather than the original nine, after the crown withdrew two counts before the end of the trial.

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