Attorneys general in both Britain and in its overseas territories are faced with a growing crime problem on two fronts, people gathered at a high-profile conference at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort were told Tuesday.
First, financial criminals are becoming more sophisticated in the ways they steal, with the proceeds of their crime often going to fuel other illegal activities, such as gang warfare or terrorist activity.
Second, violent street crime has recently escalated to levels not seen before in either the United Kingdom or its territories. Shootings, killings and armed robberies aren’t just a problem unique to Grand Cayman, Solicitor General for England and Wales Edward Garnier, QC, told several dozen conference attendees at the Marriott Tuesday morning.
“We are, to coin a phrase, all in this together,” Mr. Garnier said. “What touches you, touches us. Drugs, gangs, money laundering, and terrorism are not issues peculiar to England any more than they are peculiar to the overseas territories.”
Mr. Garnier’s audience – including Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines, Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and two Grand Court Justices Charles Quin and Alexander Henderson – was well aware of the growing troubles with street crime.
“The maintenance of law and order in the territories as it now stands is of unrivalled concern,” he said. “The future prosperity and stability of the territories depends on a lawful society.
“Gun crime across the Caribbean territories and Bermuda has risen at an alarming rate in the last 12 months, he said. “We’ve seen shootings here in Grand Cayman … gun crime and lawlessness threatens the stability of every territory and threatens every inhabitant of the territories.”
Mr. Garnier stressed the importance of having an effective criminal justice system in place to unpin the delivery of law and order.
That issue has also come to the fore in recent weeks, as a number of high-profile murder cases have ended in not guilty verdicts following judge-alone trials where evidence was viewed as insufficient.
Those acquittals included the February 2010 slaying of a 4-year-old boy, and the 2008 killing of a Canadian national in his Beach Bay home.
More recently, police did obtain a guilty verdict in the death of Tyrone Burrell last year in an apparent gang-related shooting in West Bay.
Mr. Baines – who has drawn both kudos and criticism for bringing in specialist teams of UK-based police officers to assist the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in some of the homicide cases – said last year’s UK police squad from the Midlands area did achieve some important results, even if the suspects in some cases went free.
“Think about what it was like before those arrests happened, think about the shooting every two or three days [during early 2010],” he said. “We haven’t finished all those trials … there’s three of the cases going before the court.
“It’s important when those cases go to court that we put the best evidence there … so we’ve got an opportunity to take dangerous people off our streets and return to the normality that we enjoy; a quiet, peaceful island.”
Mr. Garnier said the past year has been a difficult time for governments around the world as the global economic downturn has persisted.
“[Economic crime] has always been there, but the criminal are being increasingly sophisticated in the way they go about their business,” he said, adding the UK would continue to police international standards and regulations and update those where necessary.
“It is incumbent upon all of us in each of our jurisdictions to keep pace with the developments,” Mr. Garnier said. “Significant progress has been made across the territories.”