Firearms appeal costs $29,000

Warren Dennie lg

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.” 

Warren Dennie

Dennie Warren Jr. surrenders his firearm to police in May 2011. – Photo: Stuart Wilson

16 COMMENTS

  1. Dennie,

    I’m sorry mate; I could never support you on this one.

    We’ve agreed on much, much more than we’ve disagreed on ever since the murder of Estella Scott-Roberts and you have been a staunch advocate of more citizens’ self-protection/defense rights but…

    By this ill-advised challenge to the Commissioner of Police’s authority, you’ve undone all the hard work that you, yourself has done.

    In today’s climate, the Cayman and world of 2012,how can you expect to be allowed to own a firearm on the premise of ‘trust’ alone, when it is not a guaranteed right that you should own one in the first place ?

    You should have been cherishing the privilege so much that you should have issued an invitation to the CoP or his representative to visit your home and inspect your firearm’s safety procedures and storage as an example of responsible gun-ownership and…

    Maybe, in doing so, given the CoP cause to consider other gun-licence applications in a more positive light.

    Instead, you have been selfish, although you might not see it that way, and now it has cost you, and possibly others, dearly.

  2. Why doesn’t Mr Baines go catch some real criminals.
    Like people that rob, steal and kill.
    This man is just protecting his property.

  3. When firearms are finally outlawed, only the outlaws will have the firearms.

    I suggest he admit to the fine/penalty and then run, don’t walk to the bankruptcy court. But tread lightly, there might be Debtor’s Prison waiting for pleading your case.

  4. firery on 4/11/2012 3:58:27 AM,

    Firstly, this discussion is just getting started, because the administrators of this colony are becoming more and more intrusive each day. Translation, they are eroding the rights which were designed to protect residents from the State.

    Secondly, this challenge was about the rule of law, the right to privacy, not firearms. If it were about firearms I’m clear about what the CoP expects Unfortunately, these days the rule of law doesn’t matter anymore, especially to those in power.

    Thirdly, I don’t agree with the CICA, but to say that the CoP does has ‘absolute discretion,’ what possible wrong could a CoP then do in these matters, and how meaningful would the applicant’s right to appeal administrative decisions be?

    Fourthly, it is all about where the licensee can be trusted, otherwise why would you issue the license? Surely a contract is only as good as the parties’ intent to respect the agreement! Unlike the RCIPS I didn’t lose firearms, so I am a good example of responsible gun-ownership, but no matter how poor the RCIPS example, they will always claim to be more responsible.

    Fifthly, one day I’ll get my firearm back, and continuing defending my right to privacy also. Clearly you don’t see how storage is being use as a weapon by the police. One day soon, lawful firearm owners here will also understand what I’m saying. I will welcome that enlightenment.

  5. Dennie

    I think where you messed up here is that you filed what has been successfully portrayed as an unreasonable objection to what RCIPS can easily demonstrate is a reasonable precaution in the firearms licensing process.

    I am old enough to remember how, during the 1970s and 1980s, police in the UK used this power of inspection to harass law-abiding shooters, which is something I don’t think has happened here.

    In 1979 I was a well-vetted civil servant and a member of five shooting clubs, including the UK’s National Rifle Association, but our local police still turned up unannounced one weekday morning at 6:30am to check that my firearms and the quantities of ammunition I held plus the storage they were in complied with the terms of my certificate. A colleague, two pay grades higher than me, had a similar visit just before midnight one evening. Neither of us was in the process of either renewing or varying our firearms certificates at the time so both incidents, and a number of other well-documented cases at the time, were unreasonable conduct by the police.

    If that is the sort of thing you are objecting to, you should have used ECHR Article 8 as the basis for your complaint then used 8(2) to force RCIPS to justify their actions. As I said before that is not what appears to have happened here, you just objected to the security checks regardless.

    As Firery says you have now messed it up for everyone else because you went into this without any clear idea what the relevant legal arguments were.

    RCIPS can now argue that the courts have granted them unrestricted rights to conduct security checks and it may be difficult to use the ECHR argument to take them to court if, or more likely when, they start turning up as and when they please.

    Mind you I’d take issue with paying CI426 an hour for legal services! Who says crime doesn’t pay?

  6. @ John Evans – It is not over for Dennie. He has now an argument pertaining to the cost it takes to defend civil rights in the Cayman Islands. He can go far with take such an argument and educate the public, because he can now say he has been there, done that.

    If I was Dennie, I would be humbled that I lost to the crown, but from there, I would look up, dust myself off, and get myself on talk-shows and in the spotlight to inform the public on how hard it is to maintain certain rights and freedoms in a British Overseas Territory.

  7. Bodden

    you got no arguments from me there.

    When you put a price on human or civil rights, there are no human or civil rights.

    Despite my comments about the wisdom of Dennie’s legal action this all looks like a very dangerous (CI727 for photo-copying!!!!) precedent designed to warn off anyone who tries to challenge authority.

  8. John,

    Agreed wholeheartedly.

    Educating the public and hoping that it influences policy and legislation, is now crucial. Dennie can turn a not-so-good outcome into a positive one.

    Will the citizens, so dependent on Mother for everything, learn something significantly new from this case???

  9. Bodden

    I’d suggest that someone should find out exactly who at RCIPS authorised the employment of such a high-priced legal team. After all if Dennie’s action had succeeded they would have footed the bill for it all.

    The Met in the UK run a similar option (for legal reasons I can’t post a word that seems more appropriate) using high-priced lawyers to scare off potential litigants – they got their fingers badly burnt more than once.

  10. Dennie..

    John has answered you very well but I will pay you the respect that you’re due to continue the dialogue and help in the education process as far as the human rights elements of your situation.

    There are a couple of basic premises that you are not acknowledging; one is that firearms ownership is not a right in the British/Caymanian legal system, it is a privilege granted by the Government under certain conditions.

    Second is that the Government does not wish you to own that firearm, period; this is the British attitude towards firearm ownership, and that they will use any excuse you give them to take it away from you, particularly as you have been an outspoken advocate of more ownership of fireamrs for citizens for the purpose of self-defense.

    Your request for a judicial review was based on technicalities in the legal paperwork and process but they judged your case on the underpinning basis of firearm ownership, period.

    In the judges view, the major issue overrode the minor issues and thus you have been judged.

    That the Governement has punished you twice by the excessive fees is without a doubt and immediately evident.

    Here is where you might have a legitimate human rights complaint but…

    Facing such a large financial penalty already,

    Would you not worry about the consequences of pursuing this matter any further, should you lose again ?

    If I were in your position, I certainly would but on this issue, whatever you choose to do…

    You have my full support.

  11. Dennie

    I’m just going to quickly take up the point about costs Firery made.

    Assuming the Cayman Islands follow the UK example of assessing costs there should now be a hearing before which you must be provided with a detailed breakdown of the bill of costs.

    You can, and should, challenge any and all of it. If the costs are unreasonable or unjustified they should be denied. The best bit about this (again assuming UK rules apply) is that the lawyers cannot add anything to the original bill for the work they do answering your challenges as long as you are reasonable.

    Some years ago in the UK I challenged a substantial bill for legal costs on the grounds that it contained fraudulent entries – specifically that work had billed twice, 12 hours had been claimed for a job that took at best 30 minutes and that VAT had not been added, which is a criminal offence in the UK. After a fairly robust hearing I paid nothing.

    Check every last cent of the bill. There should be specific limits on what can and cannot be charged (the photo-copying bill is one example of possible abuse) for the work undertaken and there is an over-riding rule of whether or not the charges are reasonable. Is CI426 the going rate for the job?

    29K for a simple court case – that’s BS!

    This is a Pyrrhic Victory (check it on google) for RCIPS and you should exploit it.

  12. This case is a small tragedy, not only for Dennie Warren, but for justice, the rule of reason and the social objective of reducing violent crime.

    The evidence that British-style gun control, as exercised so evangelically by the Cayman authorities, is wholly anti-social and counter-productive, is extremely strong and consistent. Not just in Britain itself, but all over the world, most certainly including the USA, where more serious research has been carried out on the costs and effects of gun control than in the rest of the world put together.

    But British-trained police and jurists tend to have the gospel of gun control so drummed into them that they cannot even contemplate that it might not be socially beneficial. As a result they are prepared to bend the law to support their beliefs – and will feel absolutely righteous about doing that.

    This belief that strict gun control is a vital social mechanism has been repeated so often, that many citizens also believe it, as shown in some of the comments on this page.

    The fact is that, as the number of ordinary Americans allowed to carry concealed firearms for self-defence has climbed over the past 20 or so years, from less than 100,000 to well over 6 million today, their serious crime rates, i.e. for murder, rape and robbery have consistently fallen and are now much lower than the comparable Cayman rates.

    By contrast, under the blinkered direction of the Cayman focus on gun control, Cayman serious crime rates are climbing strongly. In parallel, in a mad Alice-in-Wonderland sort of way, those socially-responsible people who try to point this out, like Dennie Warren, are taken to the cleaners.

  13. I am appaulled to say the lest that Mr.Dennie warren this little church going christian fellow caymanian is expecting to b treated like some deganged shelled shock army personnell….to Mr.DENNIE WARREN where r your values????you are Caymanian!!!!!why did,nt u get a nice Conch Shell and some big rocks if you want to protect your home? yes!! you would have been 29000 richer!!!!!!!. u have we do not live on the GAZA of Honduras or Palistina… as the old Caymanian saying goes.dats wah u get!!!!!

  14. Mr. Bernard,

    Thank you so much for your well-reasoned and factual comments.

    Those of us who specialise in the industries of security and self-protection are already in possession of these facts re both the USA and the UK.

    Mr. Warren has already been alerted as to his mistake in taking on the British/CI Govts head-on on this issue; that is his only mistake, challenging the established status quo openly and in a way that was never going to succeed.

    These battles must be fought and won in a much more subtle manner than Mr. Warren has attempted.

    Eg, in Britain many homes have shotguns (licenced) and non-gunpowder weapons (CO2 gas) that can easily be used for self-defense if necessary…

    But we do not advertise that to the Old Bill (British slang for ‘the police’) and for our CO2 weapons, we don’t need any type of permit but…

    A home-invading criminal would not want face a homeowner shooting him with one of those things…

    I guarantee you; we have weapons at home here in England, we just don’t advertise it.

  15. There is another very relevant and glaring difference in how offensive weapons laws are enforced, between Britain and the Cayman Islands.

    In Britain, outside of unlicensed firearms, criminal possession of most offensive weapons only apply to having those weapons outside the confines of one’s home

    In Cayman, possession of the item alone is a criminal offense, no matter where the item is found, stored or kept.

    This, in itself, is an open invitation for home invasions because a law-abiding citizen cannot have ANYTHING that is deemed an offensive weapon, even in his/her own home, for self-defense/protection, without breaking the law.

    In Britain, anyone breaking into and invading people’s homes KNOW FOR SURE, they’re going to meet stern resistnace with some very unpleasant items…swords, crossbows, batons…you name it.

    British citizens regularly have all these items at home for the sole purpose of protecting thmeselves and their homes.

    No…home invasion is very risky business in these parts…trust me.

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