Editorial for 24 November: Firearms proposal needs review

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is on the verge of getting new
and wide-ranging powers with regard to searching for illegal firearms and in
the detention of those suspected of breaking the Firearms Law.

It is incumbent upon those who are making decisions on the approval of
this law – which could occur as early as next month when the Legislative
Assembly meets again – to review this bill and understand what it means.

A knee-jerk reaction vote based on general statements about “we have a
problem with crime” is not, in our view, what is required here; because this
bill means a significant surrendering of the civil liberties most Caymanians
may, heretofore, have taken for granted.

This bill means a police officer can enter your home to search for a
firearm based on “reasonable suspicion” without seeking permission from a court
or even a justice of the peace. 

The proposal allows individuals suspected of crime – not charged, not
convicted – merely those who have been arrested “on suspicion of” to be held in
prison for a total of 28 days, with the permission of a court, without criminal
charge.

The firearms amendment bill also reverses the ‘burden of proof’ in gun
ownership cases. If an illegal gun is found in your house or your car, it is
presumed to be yours unless you can prove otherwise. The basic presumption of
innocence in criminal firearms cases will evaporate if this bill is passed into
law.

The governor and police commissioner have given their full support to
these measures as an effective way to fight crime and to help prevent illegal
gun ownership in Cayman. However, it is fair to point out neither man is likely
to be living in these Islands for the rest of their lives.

Our local lawmakers must carefully review and decide if this bill is
one the citizens of this country can live with forever, because it is
historically very difficult to get certain civil rights back for a populace
once they are taken away.  

The MLAs have a tough choice to make; we hope they will give it all the
due consideration this important piece of legislation deserves.

 

 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. What I find disturbing about this proposed legislation is that it is being pushed through by two ex-pats who, in my opinion, will not even be living in the Cayman Islands in two years time.

    They must realise that trying to get away with similar similar moves in the UK, particularly the reversal of burden of proof, would result is an avalanche of criticism in the mainstream media and from civil liberties groups. In fact several UK national newspapers are already looking at the story with some interest.

    In simple terms these two want powers in the Cayman Islands that would never be accepted in the UK. According to one of the people watching this over here, It smacks of colonialism – one rule for us, another for you.

    The proposed laws actually make little sense and it makes you wonder what the hidden agenda is here. The police already have the excuse of ‘probable cause’ to enter buildings without a warrant and neither the extension of the period of detention without charge nor the automatic presumption of guilt are going to survive a determined challenge under ECHR. In fact the latter proposals seem destined to do nothing but drag the Cayman Islands into some very expensive litigation when, as will undoubtably happen, the powers are alleged to have been mis-used.

    This isn’t going to solve the problem. Repressive legislation is no substitute for proper law enforcement and all this will do is further alienate the members of the public RCIPS need to come forward and help catch the real criminals.

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  2. Well said, John.

    What I find interesting is that those of us who now live in the UK, both original Brits like yourself and Caymanians, like myself, have to be sticking up for Caymanian’s liberty and civil rights when the Caymanians won’t or don’t know how to do it for themselves.

    And this is an historical problem; its been this way for a very long time.

    We keep having to point out where the powers that be in Cayman, both British colonial and local authorities keep pushing the limits on human rights violations that would never be tolerated in Britain, or in other words, how the Caymanians continue to allow themselves to be treated as second-class citizens, when the rights of all British subjects are basically the same.

    A citizens human rights watchdog group should have been formed in the Cayman Islands by now, as they are in the UK and the world over, to stand as civilian vanguards on the protection of human rights.

    Such an organization can always laison with the British press in matters such as these because we all know…the press loves a good story and love them or loathe them, they are a fundamental part of keeping Britian a free, human-rights protected country.

    A key indicator also is…look at how many posters on this forum agree with the introduction of these new laws, presumably under the assumption that their rights will never be abused…and thereby declaring that they don’t give a toss whether someone else’s might.

    These new firearms laws are an open invitation for corrupt police officers, their friends and other people to plant guns and ammunitions on their enemies property, or person and report them as in possession and have them arrested…anyone who believes that this does not happen is probably living in the Cayman Islands.

    I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where such naive people live and certainly none live in Britian.

    It is also for Cayman’s political opposition to play their role here but as they are in line to become the next govt, with all the powers that this law will legislate, is it any wonder that they can be expected to support it ?

    There has been a marked reduction in gun robberies and other crimes since the recent contingent of British police officers have been seconded from Liverpool…

    Does this not give an indication of the way to go to reduce gun-crime in Cayman, rather than these suggested, human-rights violating laws ?

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  3. Firery, I think your last two paragraphs hit the nail right on the head – there is substitute for proper law enforcement, or at least the threat of it.

    Things have slowly deteriorated in Cayman since Operation Tempura disrupted and dis-credited the RCIPS but these proposed laws are not the way to solve things.

    As I said before this is generating considerable media interest in the UK and I now understand that similar suggestions were put up by ACPO, an organisation with which Mr Baines has long-standing associations, a few years ago and buried very quickly when the human rights implications were examined.

    All legislation in the UK has to pass a Human Rights test and these proposals fail it miserably.

    The 28-day detention without charge breaches both ECHR Article 3 and Article 6. The latter requires that, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law, and that they have to be, informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. The second provision quoted simply means that RCIPS can’t grab someone off the street and hold them for 28 days while they complete their investigations and decide what to charge them with. In fact, because of ECHR we are currently having problems holding suspected terrorists for 28 days without charge so trying to apply this to alleged common criminals is a non-starter. Article 6 also states, Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law, and that for sure isn’t what Messrs Baines and Taylor are proposing.

    What bothers me is that two well-qualified professionals, the Commissioner has a Masters degree in International Relations and Mr Taylor is described as a career diplomat, think they can circumvent well-established human rights laws in this way.

    Over to you Mr Taylor and Mr Baines – please tell us exactly why you think ECHR can be suspended to allow these laws to be passed.

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  4. This is unprecedented in a civilized community; where the burden of proof is with the citizen.. I would be hard pressed not to resent anyone coming into my house to search for anything without a court order..

    If we don’t have political prisoners now this law has just put the keys into the hands of the corrupt to do just that. I could not even mention my response on here if someone was to lock me up for 28 days for nothing. Imagine someone being imprisoned innocently for years.. This is the reason we as a community pay a police force.. Burden of proof in the core of their work, I know I am repeating what John Evans said and basically what firery is beating his chest about. But true, I cannot believe not even one law-maker stood against this..

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  5. I would be hard pressed not to resent anyone coming into my house to search for anything without a court order..

    Many, if not most, law-abiding citizens in Cayman would be hard-pressed to not ‘resist’ anyone, including police officers, coming into their houses to search for anything with no more authority than their own ‘say so’.

    So, taking your point to its next logical conclusion, we not only have the scenario of political prisoners having been set-up by their political enemies and opponents; we have the all-too possible scenario of political victims, being shot and killed while resisting arrest by the police being used against them by their political masters.

    What bothers me is that two well-qualified professionals, the Commissioner has a Masters degree in International Relations and Mr Taylor is described as a career diplomat, think they can circumvent well-established human rights laws in this way.

    Answer to your concern is…

    They are working with a local political culture and individuals within Cayman’s legislature who will allow them to because they agree with them…

    And it gives them a law that they can use to abuse their political enemies with, as stated above.

    In essence a coalition of power in the Cayman Islands who are quite willing to by-pass all British and ECHR laws and statutes for the protection of British citizens from the abuse of government power…

    If they are allowed to.

    If this law is passed, you will see many more confrontations on the doorsteps of Caymanian citizens homes between members of the RCIPS and homeowners than you are now currently seeing between homeowners and common criminals…with the possibility of many of those illegal weapons that this law is suposedly aimed at…now being aimed at the police.

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