A local man who went to court to challenge the police seizure of a shotgun from his George Town home last year is now being made to pay some $29,000 in legal fees by Crown attorneys who handled the case on behalf of government.
Dennie Warren Jr. claimed in an application for judicial review filed in August that Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines “acted without legal authority” in actions related to the forfeiture of Mr. Warren’s restricted licence [firearm licence] which allowed him to keep the shotgun. “There are express limitations in the relevant section of the [Firearms Law, 2008 Revision] that the commissioner of police has chosen to ignore parliamentary intent and supremacy,” the judicial review filing read. “Instead, he had caused to be unlawfully published other forms that are not included in the first schedule Firearms Law Regulations (1999 Revision).”
Essentially, Mr. Warren contends the firearms application forms contained in the regulations of the law are substantially different from the ones that have since been published and distributed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
In November, Mr. Warren lost his appeal of the matter before the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal.
A bill of costs sent to Mr. Warren in February notified him of the attorney general’s chambers intent to file the legal bills with the Court of Appeal. The letter asked him to look over the bill and “sign it indicating the amount that you think you should pay”. Mr. Warren also was asked to present a “statement of objections” if he disputed any part of the bill.
According to the particulars, Acting Solicitor General Vicki Ellis charged CI$426 per hour for the case. Another attorney, Dawn Lewis, also charged CI$426 per hour.
Among the items charged for were “considering e-mail of commissioner of police’s secretary” (CI$106.50), “considering e-mails from registrar of court of appeal” (CI$106.50), “teleconference with commissioner of police regarding instructions” (CI$426), “legal research in respect of principles for striking out appeal” (CI$3,088.50), and “photocopying material for appeal bundles” (CI$727).
The bills were only charged for the attorneys representing the government and Mr. Baines in the case. Mr. Warren was not represented by an attorney during the proceedings.
In November before the Court of Appeal, Mr. Warren applied for an extension of time so he could seek judicial review of the Commissioner of Police’s decision not to renew his firearm user’s licence for a Winchester shotgun. Court president Sir John Chadwick told him that judicial review is a procedure for cases in which there was no alternative remedy. But the Firearms Law does provide a remedy by way of appeal to the Governor in Cabinet. Hearing Mr. Warren’s appeal as an application for judicial review would not address his main contention – that it was an abuse of power by the commissioner to not renew the licence because Mr. Warren would not agree to an inspection of where he stored his firearm.
Justice Chadwick said the court would hear argument on that point and, if it had real merit, would make a decision accordingly.
Mr. Warren told the court he did not agree to the inspection as a matter of principle. He argued the requirement for such an inspection could be imposed only through a regulation made by the Governor in Cabinet, but the Commissioner of Police had made it a requirement as a matter of policy. By doing so, he had acted outside the scope of his authority, Mr. Warren contended.
He told the court that he had possessed a firearm licence since 1993. The application form asked if he had a secure place in which to keep the firearm and he had answered yes. The application also asked him to declare that, if any information in his application changed, he would notify the appropriate authority within seven days. Mr. Warren told the court that he moved to a new address in 1995 and did inform then-Deputy Commissioner Kevin McCann of the change within seven days. He said Mr. McCann wrote back thanking him and no inspection was done.
“That is the right way to act. Mr. McCann continued to trust me. I followed the law. It wasn’t until 2008 that the issue of inspection came up,” he said.
Justice Chadwick said the present police commissioner had taken the position that safe storage of firearms was not a question of “do I trust, do I distrust”. He was requiring everyone to show they have a gun safe. The judge suggested that policy was driven by what is perceived to be a particular problem on this Island.
Justice Elliot Mottley asked if Mr. Warren’s difficulties with the commissioner arose against the background of an increase in the use of firearms to commit crimes in Cayman. Mr. Warren agreed. Asked if firearms could be stolen and used for crime, he agreed it could happen.
The judge referred to Mr. Warren getting his first licence in 1993. “Cayman is different now. Now [the Commissioner] wants to be sure you have a place that is safe and he sets it out for everybody in a policy, not regulations.”