An important year for legislation

The Legislative Assembly passed a number of significant pieces of legislation during 2008, some of which have proven to be highly controversial in the community as well as outside the country.

Immigration Bill

The Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2008 garnered a lot of attention for the provision that future work permit applicants will have their fingerprints taken as a condition of employment. Workers who renew their work permits will also be asked to submit to fingerprinting within seven days of being advised of a renewal being granted.

Although the finger printing gained the most attention, there are other important changes introduced as well. Under the amendment the Immigration Department will be allowed to process and award or deny work permits for non-controversial applications. These applications are generally considered those where no qualified Caymanians applied for the post.

The amendment will also require that permanent residents will need to maintain the same level of investment they had at the time of their application for permanent residence. This applies to non-Caymanian permanent residents.

Tobacco Bill

The long-touted Tobacco Bill also made its passage through the Legislative Assembly, promising to ban smoking in many public places as well as placing restrictions on the promotion, sale and distribution of tobacco products. The bill was voted in during the second half of October, bringing to an end a very long process that started with the previous government.

The list of public places in which smoking will be banned includes parks; factories; workplaces; office buildings; health care facilities; common areas in apartment buildings and condos; all educational institutions and their precincts; and on all forms of commercial and public transport.

Restaurants and bars will also be smoke free, although cigar bars will be exempt from the ban on smoking. However, these venues will need to have sophisticated extraction systems in place.

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to have an outdoor smoking area, provided it is more than 10 feet away from the entrance While smoking will be illegal inside bars and restaurants, the bill does include an exemption for outdoor smoking areas in such venues provided the areas are 10 feet away from the entrance and an outdoor non-smoking area is also designated.

Marriage Bill

The Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2008 also passed through the Legislative Assembly. The amendment defines marriage as being ‘the union between a man and a woman as husband and wife’ thereby precluding the possibility of same-sex marriages being allowed in the Cayman Islands.

‘The people of the Cayman Islands are sending a clear signal that they do not wish to change the definition of marriage,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said. ‘The purpose (of this amendment) is to confirm and clarify what the Marriage Law has always meant in Caymanian society.’

Proceeds of Criminal Conduct

The Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Law 2008 was also passed by the Legislative Assembly. The law aims to consolidate current provision in the law involving offences including drug trafficking, money laundering and funding of terrorism.

The law will also allow the Attorney General to bring civil proceedings in a court in order to confiscate property obtained through unlawful conduct. This means that there will be no need for a criminal conviction before the confiscation order can be obtained.

The law will also help Cayman to fight money laundering and bring it more in line with international best practice in that area.

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