‘Lifers’ to be monitored after release
Within the next 18 to 20 months, four murderers serving life sentences in Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward, will be released, Governor Helen Kilpatrick has confirmed.
A statement from the governor’s office emphasized that the men will be “gradually released” and closely monitored thereafter and could easily be returned to jail if they violate the terms of their release.
“They will be supervised by the Department for Community Rehabilitation and will be subject to licence [parole] conditions, such as a curfew and regular meetings to aid their rehabilitation,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “If these conditions are broken, the individuals can be recalled to prison with immediate effect.”
Territorial governors in Cayman have the power under the Prison Law to order the parole of any prisoner serving a life sentence.
Although the governor’s office declined to identify which men convicted of murder will be released, the Caymanian Compass is aware of at least three cases in which prisoners serving life sentences applied for parole.
Two of them, Lensel Dixon and Owen Barrington Bruce, were convicted along with Lensel Dixon’s brother, Blanford, of the 1986 murder of the Dixon brothers’ stepfather Charles Evans Rankine.
Blanford Dixon was released from prison last year by former Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Blanford Dixon was the first of the so-called prison “lifers” to be released by gubernatorial order.
Another prisoner who applied for release was George Roper. In January 1994, Roper and another inmate were involved in an incident during which they barricaded themselves in a cell at Northward, and a prison employee died. Roper was convicted in the employee’s death and received a life sentence.
Two other inmates in the initial “lifers” case – the subject of a complaint reviewed by the former Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee – were William Stuart Powell and McAndy Ford Thomas. Powell was convicted in the June 1986 shooting deaths of Charles and Gaynell Ebanks. His death sentence for the crime was commuted after the U.K. changed the law in 1991.
Thomas was convicted in the March 1990 death of 77-year-old Ratmir Pavlovic, an employee of the Gold Royale jewelry store who was killed during a robbery at the store. Another man who police said was involved in the heist, Jerry Machado Christian, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years. Christian was not involved in the Human Rights Committee complaint in 2006.
In the lifers’ cases described above, both former Governor Taylor and Governor Kilpatrick have ordered parole in accordance with recommendations from the Parole Commissioners Board.
Former governor’s office staffer Tom Hines said last year that the move to release Blanford Dixon on license was a “proactive” one by Mr. Taylor. However, he said that territorial governors’ releasing prison inmates on license, even with advice from the Parole Commissioner’s Board, isn’t a long-term solution.
“The best solution would be is if there were a Parole Law … that gave the judge a chance to set a minimum tariff,” Mr. Hines said. Cayman Islands judges now have only one option in sentencing someone convicted of murder: life in prison.
Mr. Hines’s statements echoed recommendations in the 2006 Human Rights Committee report on the prison lifers’ cases. The tariffs, or minimum sentencing guidelines, would allow judges to review the sentence after the minimum number of years had been served and determine whether the murderer was still a danger to society.
The then-Human Rights Committee recommended either the sentencing judge, or the chief justice, be allowed to review the circumstances surrounding the lifers’ crimes, and determine a minimum prison term. If any of the six had been in prison longer than the minimum term, and a judge decided they posed no risk to the public, they would have to be released.
After a seven-month review of the issue in 2006, committee attorneys concluded laws that impose life sentences for all types of offenses of murder are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as two other international human rights treaties.
The committee said the six lifers would be highly likely to succeed if they took their claims before the European Court of Human Rights, and that they would probably be awarded damages. Attorneys also said Cayman could then be forced to change its laws.