Honduran divorce was not final

A divorce he applied for in Honduras was not final when Rodney Castaneda Haylock married a woman with Caymanian status, Justice Lloyd Hibbert heard after Haylock pleaded guilty to the charge of bigamy.

Haylock, who had been remanded in custody on 12 July, was sentenced in Grand Court on 20 July to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He remained in custody until 24 July, when he appeared in Summary Court on charges of making false representations to the Immigration Department.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees said Haylock, a Honduran national, went through a ceremony of marriage in West Bay on 9 November 2005. The very next day, he applied for the right to reside and work here on the basis of his marriage to a Caymanian. But he would not be entitled to an employment and residency certificate if the marriage was not lawful.

On two occasions before the ceremony, in August and October 2005, he made the false representation on work permit applications that he was single and had no dependants. In fact, he had a wife to whom he had married in Honduras in 2000. He also had two children with her.

In Summary Court, he was fined $200 for the false representations. The second wife believed they were lawfully married and the Crown did not proceed with the charge against her for making a false representation.

Last Friday Ms Lees confirmed Haylock’s immigration status: he had been given one week to leave the island.

Defence Attorney Della Campbell appeared for Haylock in both courts. She said he had an honest and reasonable belief that his first marriage had been dissolved.

Haylock pleaded guilty before Chief Justice Anthony Smellie on 12 July. A trial had been scheduled to start the following week, so Haylock’s plea eliminated the need for three witnesses to travel from Honduras. The Chief Justice said Haylock should enter pleas to the Summary Court matters before being sentenced for bigamy, which can be dealt with only in Grand Court.

After the pleas were entered in Summary Court, Haylock appeared before Justice Hibbert.

Ms Lees set out the background to the charge of bigamy.

She said when Haylock was interviewed in June 2006, he told authorities that his first wife had refused to divorce him, so he had taken her signature from an ID card and given it to a lawyer in Honduras. He further stated that the lawyer gave his divorce papers to his mother in Honduras and he never filed them in La Ceiba, where they had to be filed for the divorce to be final.

He produced documents purporting to be divorce papers, but they were dated 15 December 2005, which was after the marriage ceremony in Cayman. If the papers were genuine, he was still not divorced because they had not been filed, Ms Lees said.

The maximum sentence for bigamy in Cayman is five years; in the UK seven years. Ms Lees cited a UK case in which a man received a nine-month sentence for bigamy involving a marriage for payment. Two cases from Cayman did not attract immediate prison sentences.

Ms Campbell said her client accepted the facts as outlined, but maintained that he did not intend to deceive anyone. He pleaded guilty because he had nothing to substantiate his belief that he was divorced. At 28, he had never been in trouble either in Honduras or Cayman.

She said Haylock had been providing for his children and if he could get a work permit he would continue to support them. She emphasised that this was not an attempted marriage of convenience; the relationship had started in 2001.

In passing sentence, Justice Hibbert referred to Haylock’s contention that he had been told the divorce was finalised. ‘You still have a duty to ascertain that what you were told is true…. I’m sure you know that when persons are divorced there are documents to indicate that.’

The judge said that, in the future, Haylock should have any documents needed before he makes answers or commitments.

Bigamy is a serious offence, the judge warned. Sometimes people engage in it for lucrative gain. Sometimes people who seek to remain in Cayman enter marriage, although they are already married, in order to have status and remain here. There was nothing in this case to indicate that was Haylock’s intention, but it was a fact to be considered.

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