Governor’s pardon gives student a chance

Conviction for ganja prevented US schooling

A young Caymanian man who was told a year ago that he would not able to continue his university studies in the United States because of a ganja conviction has received a gubernatorial pardon.  

The conditional pardon, issued by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor on 16 April, was granted to Anthony Devin Berry of Bodden Town “for the purpose of affording you an opportunity to resume your interrupted studies and with all other rights and privileges associated therewith”.  

Mr. Berry was convicted in Summary Court on 13 December, 2010, of consumption of ganja, for which he received a $500 fine. 

That rather minor criminal conviction paled in comparison to its effect on Mr. Berry’s life when he got off a plane in Texas to start his second semester at school and was turned around by US authorities. Last year, Mr. Berry’s attorney, James Austin-Smith, stated that the young man was refused a student visa and was told he would be permanently ineligible because of the 2010 conviction for ganja.  

“He was a silly, arrogant boy, but that’s not who he is now,” Mr. Austin-Smith told the Court of Appeal in March 2012.  

The Caymanian Compass contacted Mr. Berry on Tuesday about the pardon, but he declined to comment on the matter.  

According to section 39 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, the governor may grant pardons to any person convicted of any offence in the islands.  

The pardon can consist of a respite for a period from the sentence given by a court, substitute a less severe form of punishment or remit a part of or the entire sentence.  

In granting such a pardon, the governor must consult with the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, which includes the attorney general and the chief medical officer of the Health Services Authority.  

“The impact of his punishment was, in the governor’s view, disproportionate,” said Tom Hines, a staffer in the governor’s office. “It meant, in effect, that he couldn’t complete his studies.”  

No rehab  

Mr. Berry was given a second chance to erase the ganja conviction, according to appeal court Justice Abdullah Conteh. Justice Conteh said in March 2012 that Mr. Berry, while his case was before the Summary Court, had refused to enter the Drug Rehabilitation Court programme. If he had done so, as another individual accused in the ganja case had done, he would have been free and clear, the judge said.  

The judges also referred to the sentencing notes of Magistrate Nova Hall. She had said that probation would normally have been the appropriate way to deal with Berry’s rehabilitation. However, the report prepared by the probation officer described him as “nonchalant”. It said he had missed appointments, did not show any remorse, and tested positive for ganja twice, including once just prior to sentence.  

Magistrate Hall said she saw “no effort” by Mr. Berry to be rehabilitated and she found no basis for not recording a conviction.  

Court president Sir John Chadwick said Mr. Berry’s attitude toward ganja consumption was not uncommon among his generation and there was nothing before the court to suggest his attitude had changed. He continued, “The law is the law and you can’t decide at age 18 that it doesn’t apply to you because it’s a silly law anyway.”  

Mr. Berry had only one semester left to go at the Universal Technical Institute in Houston when he was refused a US student visa.  

 

Case inspired legislator  

Bodden Town representative Dwayne Seymour said last year that too many young people in the Cayman Islands are paying too high a price for their first criminal offences and has previously referenced Mr. Berry’s case as an example.  

“Criminal records often prevent them from finding work, particularly as more people vie for a smaller pool of positions,” Mr. Seymour told the Legislative Assembly as he introduced a private members motion that seeks to change the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law in November.  

Mr. Seymour said he was seeking legislation in the Cayman Islands similar to that proposed in 2009 by US Congressman Charlie Rangel.  

Mr. Rangel’s Second Chance for Offenders Act permits the expunging [or clearing] of records for individuals convicted of a first, non-violent offence as long as they fulfil all requirements of the sentence set by a court, remain free from dependency or abuse of alcohol and controlled substances for a minimum of one year, obtain a high school diploma or equivalent 
and complete at least 
one year of community service.  

Mr. Seymour proposed that some or all of those measures could form any part of a bill Cayman lawmakers might enact.  

“It’s not just a situation where we’re saying ‘you made a mistake, no problem. We will expunge this, go make another mistake’,” Mr. Seymour said.  

“Sometimes offences are left on record for five years, seven years depending on what it is. We don’t want a person to wait for five years or seven years to find employment again. We’re talking about offences that you don’t even go to prison for.”  

The existing Rehabilitation of Offenders Law (1998 Revision) makes provision for convictions that are treated as “spent” in certain criminal cases. Any obligation required of the offender to disclose the details of a conviction is removed when that conviction is considered “spent”.  

Sentences excluded from rehabilitation include those with a prison term of more than 30 months.  

 

Caymanian Compass journalist 
Carol Winker contributed 
to this report. 

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Want to thank the Cayman Islands Governor’s , Mr Taylor for the help in giving this young lad a second chance in life. This can be a game changer for the rest of Mr. Berry’s life. Hope he takes advantage of this wonderful gift and then becomes an a stunning example for other politicians and judges to see the need for the Second Chance Act for the youth. Also, thanks go out to Mr. Rangel’s and Mr. Seymour.

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  2. I’m so glad to see that people thought ahead and not just for the moment and gave this young man a second chance at life. How many young caymanians lives have been ruined because of a simple mistake while an adolescent? Too many to count. At that age you are very curious and very vulnerable to influence from others just to fit in. If the punishment for simple consumtion of marijuana is amended to a less serious punishment then we are on our way to a better future for Cayman. Making more jobs for caymanian will not help when we have no caymanians to fill the positions because they are convicted criminals. A survey should be done to really show the public how many young capable caymanians cannot work due to this rediculous conviction. Now everyday someone wonders why their house, car etc. got broken into. The facts are plain to see people. We need to fight for a better future for the younger generation, as their future are looking very dull with the current government and judicial system that is set up to fail are youth and push into the wrong frame of mind at such a young age.

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  3. This is great. But, if HE wanted to do something really impressive, he would just repeal all of these stupid and ineffective drug laws, so that this would not be an issue in the first place.

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  4. Doesn’t he know that pot privileges are the prerogative of the USA and outsiders are law breakers?
    America doesn’t want anybody convicted of tokin’ a joint who gets caught and convicted, but show up at customs with 3 pressure cookers, 4 pounds of black powder, 9 volt batteries, a few timers, and tell the officers that you are doing a science project, your entry stamp will be processed so fast that the ink might splatter a bit on the desk.

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  5. I doubt this pardon will make any difference to the US authorities’ decision on whether to readmit him.

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  6. I too must also Thank The Governor for this pardon for the young man. I am sure he will always remember it, especially his parents.
    I also heard that Mr Minister Dwayne Seymour from that district played a big part in getting this done for the lad. Very good to give the youth a second chance

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  7. Great story but this young man was lucky plain and simple, there are tons of young men who’s live are ruined because of an adolescent choice. Parents need to drill into their children’s heads that the choices you make today will dictate the path you take in life and the mistakes you make will most likely stick with you for life constantly holding you back from the goals you may have set for yourself. Being curious at a young age is true yet not an excuse, always remember that curiosity is what killed that cat..

    While this is great story and I wish this young man luck it is a very very rare outcome and the bottom line is if you want to succeed you need to keep your nose clean..

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  8. I hope he do pardon for all young caymanians not just for one only
    What go for one must go for all . Young caymanians need that 2 chance
    If the governor do that i will be first to thanks him
    Jordanian

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  9. @slowpoke how about they just repeal the law for cocaine snorting, and a little fraud here and there, a little burglary and while your are at it, nothing wrong if you rape a woman provided it is not a Caymanian, or rob a little bit. After all they are too hard on the poor young people of these islands. Give the young people a chance to get ahead in life but make sure no foreigners don’t get away with anything though. Then Caymanians will be uplifted and the 3000 unemployed will be gainfully employed. Give me a break!!!!! Compromise on crimes? Is that what you people want? what kind of world you think you living in?

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  10. Mr.Islander…

    You…and people like you…are a major part of the reason too large a percentage of Caymanians are…and have been criminalised and are no longer any use to themselves..or society…

    For at least two generations now.

    In Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Scandanavia, Jamaica…you name the country…

    Marijuana use for personal reasons is ‘overlooked’ by the law, even though it might be a crime on the books.

    Why is this ?

    Because sensible people with half-a-brain in their heads realise the hypocrisy of pursuing marijuana use as a major crime…

    When marijuana is also PRESCRIBED in medical circles as treatment for a number of illnesses…

    And that it causes far less problems in society than the legal drug of choice…

    ALCOHOL !

    Cayman’s pursuance and demonization of marijuana usage is way out of step with the rest of the world.

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  11. Mr Islander,

    How can you compare smoking a doobie to snorting coke or even rape? Why do you think that the judcial system sets different punishments for different offences? You must be an older head that is just stuck in the 90’s! Get over it! Marijuana is not as bad as you and many of others like you want to make it seem. Smoking it is not the only that you can do with it. Do a little research and maybe you can post another comment to redeem your self, because you really just showed us all that you dont even have half a brain.

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  12. OK, I get everyones gripe about how much less of a crime smoking weed is or should be. On this I happen to agree with you, but the fact remains that it is currently illegal. So the point here should be of what the ill effects can be on your future for getting an arrest record because of it. Most jobs especially in Corporate capacities require mandatory drug testing and you can easily miss out on a great opportunity because of one pull on a joint. In my opinion young people should just ask themselves if it’s really worth it, I mean what’s more important the right to smoke weed or the right to have a great career leading to a successful future. Whether or not it’s not as bad as Cocaine they are both currently illegal and can land you in the slammer with a record that will stick with you for life along with the stigma of having a criminal record. So like I said before, if you are determined and committed to a successful future..JUST SAY NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  13. Seems many support this,

    How do people feel about relaxing the requirements on police clearances for work permits?

    Clealy there will be many who are denied an opportunity to work in Cayman due to exactly the same conviction…

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  14. @Fiery of course I’m an older person and i have no tolerance for crimes. Too much have already happened. The Bible says A little leaven the leaveneth the whole bunch. Start with something small and it expands rapidly into something greater. From ganja i have seen youngsters graduated to cocaine and from cocaine to crack and to ice and similar hard drugs. One teenager assaulted her mother because she needed a high and her mother barred her way from getting out of the house.People have been known to Steal or sell something valuable at a dirt-cheap price to get a high then disintegrate into burglaries robberies to satisfy the habit. Right now a man is serving time because he spent 200,000 that was placed in his trust as a pension fund manager.I am all for reform and rehabilitation but we must set standards. Never give the impression to others that should they become involved in drugs,Abuse of alcohol and substances, theft, shop lifting, we will deal with them with a simple admonition otherwise, they will be encouraged to push the boundaries further. The purpose of punishment in crimes are(1)to punish offenders,(2)to deter potential offenders,(3) To exact the revulsion of society to such crimes(4) rehabilitate offenders(5) to reform offenders. But don’t ever give the impression that if you are young and break the law you will get a pat on the shoulder. @undisclosed_876 . You say I don’t have a brain? Well you are showing that you don’t have one, because if you had one, you would appreciate that everyone has a right to differ and holds different opinion. I have seen standards decline from the 70s downward to the present time and some body must express their thought. Its democracy at work. I don’t call a person brainless because their opinion differs from mine. That’s why we have dictatorship Government in the world today. I will express my opinion whether you like it or not my friend.

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  15. @Mr. Islander I did the same thing that you did. I just expressed my OPINION on your comment, and i thought it was pretty sense less to compare marijuana to cocaine or any other hard drugs for that matter. Alcohol is a more serious drug that is legal and regulated. It all boils down to common sense. do you realize how money and man hours Government spends only to arrest someone for smoking marijuana? Giving them a fine of 500 only to put them on 1-3 year probation period where they take random drug tests on an average of 2 times per month with an average cost of USD100.00 per drug test, per person. Do the math. It costs way more than 500.00. This has been going on for years now. One of the reasons that contribute to financial situation Government is in now. Bottom line is, it is unessesary spending in my OPINION.

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