Charges against CFP dismissed

Cayman Free Press, publishers of the Caymanian Compass, had three charges dismissed in Summary Court on Wednesday.

The company was charged under the Immigration Law with employing three women outside the terms and conditions of their work permits. The women were also charged.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said charges against all four defendants had been brought out of time.

The Criminal Procedure Code provides a six-month limit for matters triable in Summary Court.

The three women, who sold the Compass as street vendors, were arrested on 22 June, 2006. Charges were not laid until 22, December.

The magistrate said calculation of the six-month period had been settled in a case under the Landlord and Tenants Law. She did not think time should be measured differently for the Immigration Department. Six months from 22 June would expire on 21 December; 22 December started a new six months.

She announced her decision after hearing from Attorney Michael Alberga on behalf of the company and Attorney Keith Collins on behalf of the women.

Mr. Alberga had indicated an intention to enter guilty pleas when the matter first came to court on 10 January.

On Wednesday, Crown Counsel Laura Manson suggested that the matter be adjourned again because of another potential charge of a similar nature. Mr. Alberga argued that it would be barred by the six-month rule. He asked that the matters before the court go ahead.

Mr. Alberga explained that, after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, the Compass started to distribute newspapers around Grand Cayman by hand. The purpose was to help people get back on their feet.

This method of distribution became popular and was continued.

One CFP employee had the responsibility for getting whatever permission was needed for workers as required by the Immigration Department. He was given specific instructions and the necessary forms for non-Caymanians, of whom there were very few.

Unfortunately, Mr. Alberga said, the employee did not carry out his duties properly.

Two of the women gave the employee their passports and letters from their bosses. The CFP employee took the information and told them they could proceed to work. The third woman was married to a Caymanian.

Quite frankly, Mr. Alberga told the court, the women had done nothing wrong and did not know they did not have permission to work.

He urged the court not to record a conviction against them and said Cayman Free Press would pay whatever fines might be imposed on the women along with its own.

The company employs over 100 people, of whom over 60 per cent are Caymanian, Mr. Alberga told the court. He listed numerous educational programmes and community projects Cayman Free Press supported, calling it an excellent corporate citizen over the years.

He said it was very unfortunate that the CFP employee had made some clerical errors.