Magistrate tackles sticky immigration issue

A young man who grew up in the Cayman Islands but isn’t Caymanian and can’t get work because of his lack of status has been ordered to spend the next 17 months of his life in jail.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale handed down the sentence for a variety of burglary charges.

Justin Baucom, 23, came to Cayman with his parents when he was five. He is American by birth, but clearly a product of Cayman society, the magistrate said.

‘We raised him,’ she said.

She said she wondered how he could be here 18 years and not be entitled to some kind of residence.

It was difficult to consider community service for someone who had no right to be in the community, she said.

It would be unlikely that he could get Caymanian status now that he had a criminal record. He cannot get a job, but without employment there is little a probation order could do to rehabilitate him.

A pre-sentence report had referred to his frustration and his inability to obtain employment. The magistrate said that was no excuse for stealing or associating with anti-social people or using drugs.

Defence Attorney Menelik Miller suggested that if Baucom received a community service order, that would give time to tackle his immigration issues. The magistrate said they should have been tackled before.

Baucom first came to court on a burglary charge after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. He admitted stealing from a home damaged by the storm.

For that offence, he was sentenced to 18 months probation, ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, attend counselling and education programmes, and pay compensation.

He breached that order by failing to pay compensation and committing further offences.

He was then charged with burglary in connection with the taking of a motor scooter from an Industrial Park business place in July 2005. After trial in 2006, he was found not guilty, but guilty of handling stolen goods.

He was also charged with a November 2005 burglary at the Agriculture Department in Lower Valley. Baucom denied being the burglar, but pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods.

The items stolen included computers, cell phones and cameras, with a total value of $8,145.90.

When his premises were searched in connection with that incident, officers recovered a 12-gauge shotgun shell. Baucom said he had found it.

The magistrate said there was a difference between one opportunistic crime after Ivan and continuous offending. She wondered if she should have locked up Baucom the first time he was in court.

‘Was I too lenient?’ she asked the defendant.

‘No, ma’am, you gave me a chance,’ he replied.

The magistrate referred again to the pre-sentence report. It said Baucom wanted to go back to the US.

The magistrate thought the US would be difficult for him. In Cayman, people see what he is doing and call him on it: in the vast society of the US, he would be lost, she said.

She decided to treat him according to his offending profile and suggested the matter could be taken elsewhere for a decision on people in Baucom’s position.

For the original burglary she imposed a term of nine months. For handling goods from the Agriculture Department, she made a term of six months run consecutively. Another six months for possession of ganja was made concurrent.

Possession of the shotgun shell added another 30 days, while handling the motor scooter was also met with 30 days. The total sentence was 17 months.