The most serious offending was asking his employee for money to pay for permits
An Immigration officer who started his own construction company was fined, given suspended prison sentences and ordered to pay compensation last week following guilty verdicts in a trial last year for offenses against the Immigration Law.
Carlington Dawson, 33, received terms of imprisonment totaling five months, suspended for two years; he was fined $6,000 and was ordered to pay $1,750 to an employee from whom he had received the money to pay for work permits.
Dawson was found guilty in December of making a false statement on two work permit applications, employing a man as a supervisor when his permit was as a mason, and receiving the unlawful payments for permits. In addition, he pleaded guilty to failure to maintain a health insurance policy for the employee.
After the trial, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn granted an adjournment so that a social inquiry report could be prepared and defense attorney Richard Barton could mitigate on Dawson’s behalf. There was a final adjournment for the magistrate to consider the sentence.
Mr. Barton had urged the court not to impose any terms of imprisonment; he also asked that no convictions be recorded because of reputational and financial repercussions.
Dawson had been on required leave with pay at the time he gave evidence in his trial. The magistrate referred to the social inquiry report, which said Dawson would suffer financial hardship as a result of loss of employment with the Immigration Department that would most likely follow his sentencing.
The report also noted Dawson’s concern that he was having trouble securing government contracts as a result of the court proceedings. The magistrate said this was not unexpected, given the size of the jurisdiction.
She pointed out that the offenses had occurred over a prolonged period – from December 2010 to February 2012. One of the consequences of his false statements on the two work permit applications was that the government treasury had been deprived of $3,000 in revenue because the permit fee for a mason was half the permit fee for a supervisor.
Another consequence was that his applications were not considered in the manner they would have been if authorities had known the true facts; she asked rhetorically if they would have considered whether a Caymanian was available for the job.
In asking his employee for money to pay for a temporary permit and then for a full permit, Dawson was extorting money from the man even though he knew employees should not pay for permits. The man had two options – pay or not work. When asked for $1,200, the man had to borrow $600 because he did not have enough money even to pay his bills.
This section of the law is expressly meant to protect employees, the magistrate noted. She was not saying that the employee didn’t know Dawson’s action was not proper, but the man was not an equal and willing participant.
“For an Immigration officer to do this is reprehensible,” she said, adding that these two offenses were the most serious of the six.
Senior Crown counsel Tanya Lobban had submitted that Dawson committed these offenses in the course of his employment as an Immigration officer and was therefore in breach of trust.
The magistrate considered this point, but concluded he had not committed the offenses in the course of his duties. He had not processed his own applications, she pointed out. If he had, he could have found himself prosecuted under the Anti-Corruption Law, she said.
However, she agreed that Dawson’s status as an Immigration officer was an aggravating factor. He breached the law he had taken an oath to uphold. Further, the Immigration Law is meant to control the labor market and protect Caymanians, and to ensure the economic stability of these islands. When an officer breaches the law, it undermines public confidence in the department, she said.
The magistrate concluded that the facts of the case required a custodial sentence in order to reflect the seriousness of the offenses and to deter others who might consider acting as Dawson did. Custody was necessary, but did not have to be immediate, she said. She also considered that Dawson had suffered and would continue to suffer. Sentencing is designed to punish, deter and rehabilitate, she pointed out.
For the first false statement she imposed two months’ imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 – twice the unpaid revenue. She said she was not setting a tariff but was considering Dawson’s future income and other financial penalties she was imposing.
For the second false statement, the sentence was two months concurrent and a fine of $4,000 – again, twice the unpaid revenue.
For the unlawful payment for work permits, the sentences were three months’ imprisonment concurrent with each other but consecutive to the previous sentences. For no health insurance and for employing someone outside the terms of a work permit, sentences were also concurrent, for the total of five months, suspended for two years.
The magistrate rejected the request for no convictions to be recorded.