Stay safe, stay sober, courts warn

Holiday partying and stress can both be temptations to relapse

Six defendants in Cayman’s drug courts were given a therapeutic remand in custody last week, while others received unusually stern warnings from presiding magistrates: Stay safe and stay sober because holidays are times of extra stress. 

Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn went into further detail during the Drug Rehabilitation Court session on Tuesday. On the one hand, she commented, holidays are happy times with lots of partying. But partying brings temptation to indulge and that is what a drug user cannot do. On the other hand, holidays can be difficult if money is tight or family members are arguing – also a cause of stress. “It takes great strength of character to get through Christmas and New Year’s,” she observed. 

One young man illustrated her point after testing positive for both ganja and cocaine use. “I was drinking,” he admitted; “I didn’t think I had used, but the person [I was with] said I was acting funny, so I probably smoked ganja.” 

The magistrate pointed out that he was positive for cocaine also. He suggested that the spliff he smoked must have been seasoned. 

She asked how he could get so drunk that he didn’t remember consuming the drugs. He shook his head in replying, “I drank and didn’t enjoy it.” He said he didn’t intend to let that happen again. 

He was remanded in custody until Monday, Dec. 23, when his bail was to be considered again. 

Another young man was also remanded until Dec. 23 after testing positive for ganja and cocaine. “He is somewhat surprised by the cocaine result,” client counselor John Furniss said. The magistrate considered the positive tests and an electronic monitoring violation before ordering six days remand for non-compliance. 

One of the youngest defendants in the drug rehab court couldn’t seem to remember how many times he had smoked ganja since his last test and couldn’t seem to be able to keep his electronic monitor battery charged. The magistrate said he had been reminded repeatedly that he faced sanctions if he continued breaching his probation order. She gave him three days in custody to think about his situation. 

One man was on the brink of custody after testing positive for ganja and not complying with counseling. However, a counselor on the drug court team confirmed his participation in group sessions. The magistrate relented and told him to come back to the next drug court sitting on Jan. 6. She reminded him that Christmas is a stressful time. “Temptation is higher, so you need to be stronger,” she said. 

One defendant was commended for being clean and having a good work record. She asked him how he was going to get through the holidays. “Stay focused,” he replied. 

One man with a triple bail breach will not have his therapeutic remand reviewed until Jan. 7. He had been remanded previously for breaking his curfew and was released on Dec. 10 with strict conditions. These included a 7 p.m. curfew, the wearing of an electronic monitor and the requirement to stay out of liquor-licensed premises. 

Three days later police found him attending a Christmas party at the Turtle Farm, which has a bar, and it was 11.25 p.m. 

Mr. Furniss said the officers found the man because he had put foil around his electronic monitor, so when the monitoring people couldn’t get a signal they notified police. 

The attorney emphasized that the man’s drug tests were clean when he was brought to court on Monday, Dec. 16. “He didn’t have an alcohol test,” the magistrate pointed out. 

Mr. Furniss asked that the man be allowed to remain in the drug court and be given another chance because his part-time job had just been turned into full-time. “He may have put his whole future at risk just for a couple of hours at the Turtle Farm party, even if it was the best party in the world.” His reason for going was that he lived near by and everybody at the function knew him. 

His case was given to the drug court team, which includes the magistrate, crown counsel, defense attorney, probation officer, counselor and court clerk. On Tuesday, the magistrate revealed the drug court team’s decision: there were no more bail conditions left to impose that would ensure compliance. He was considered to be at high risk and was therefore remanded in custody over the holidays. 

On Thursday, Magistrate Valdis Foldats presided at an informal version of drug court: it does not have the same strict structure, but it does require three months of clean tests before a confessed user is dealt with. 

One man seemed upset at being remanded for repeated cocaine use. The magistrate said he had run out of chances. “We want you to succeed. You know how tough it is in the Christmas season,” he told the defendant, placing him in custody until Jan. 6. 

Attorney Lloyd Samson endorsed the Christmas warning. He spoke on behalf of a young man who had given clean tests for more than the required three months and who was hoping to have his case concluded that day. Given the temptations of the season, Mr. Samson thought his client could benefit from one more month under the court’s supervision. The matter was adjourned until late January. 

One young man seemed genuinely puzzled by his predicament. When the magistrate asked how he would do if tested that day, he answered, “I’d fail.” Then he added, “I never even got a detention in school. I can stop for months, but then stress comes.” 

He said he had tried getting a counseling appointment. 

The magistrate explained that resources are limited. A lot of people are being counseled, he said, and when they don’t show up, that time slot is wasted. He urged the young man to make contact again. 

Both magistrates urged defendants to access the hospital’s withdrawal management unit if needed. Defendants who have reached a certain phase of the program are required to phone in on a regular basis; they were reminded that this requirement continues over the holidays.