A Jamaican national who married a Caymanian was charged with bigamy after the document showing he was divorced from his first wife proved to be fake.
However, after Justice Charles Quin learned that staff members of Jamaica’s Supreme Court had been prosecuted for issuing fraudulent documents, he accepted that the defendant had made a genuine mistake and found him not guilty. Justice Quin also stated that the matter of the false document was very serious and he would be bringing it to the notice of the Supreme Court of Jamaica.
The defendant was accused of going through a ceremony of marriage which was void because it took place while he was still married to his first wife.
Crown counsel Candia James and defense attorney Dennis Brady agreed on the basic facts. The defendant had married a woman in Jamaica in 2007. He came to Cayman to work, met someone he cared about and filed divorce proceedings in 2010 before the Supreme Court of Jamaica. The divorce petition was on the basis that the marriage had broken down irretrievably. The defendant sent his relatives money to pay for a lawyer and the filing fees.
On Sept. 7, 2011, he was granted a divorce nisi, meaning that unless there was some unresolved problem, the divorce would become final after six weeks. In other words, Justice Quin noted, some time around the end of October 2011, the divorce could become absolute. In fact, the defendant received what was purportedly a certificate saying the divorce was absolute in February 2012.
The document was signed by a judge and attorney. It had the correct cause number and ground for divorce; the court seal was embossed on it.
Mr. Brady argued that there was no reason for his client to believe that the certificate was anything other than authentic. His marriage to his Caymanian wife took place in April 2012.
Mr. Brady called on his associate, attorney Crister Brady, to give evidence. Crister Brady, called to the bar in Cayman earlier this year, told the court he had been an attorney in Jamaica and worked in the office of clerk of court in the parish of Manchester for seven years. Asked if he ever had to determine the authenticity of a document, he replied, “Yes, more often than I’d like to.”
He said he was aware of documents emanating from the justice system that were not genuine. He produced news articles relating to two members of a court staff who were accused of operating from the court, collecting money to speed up proceedings for a fee. He was aware of two people from the Supreme Court who were arrested and charged; he thought they had received sentences of five years.
Crister Brady cited a current case of his own, noting that he had his client’s permission to do so. He said he had a document purportedly signed by a judge whom he knew. He had seen the judge’s signature hundreds of times and could say that the document was not signed by that judge. “If it were not for the signature, I would think it’s authentic,” he said.
Returning to the case Justice Quin was hearing, Mr. Brady was shown the bogus divorce decree issued in 2012 and the authentic decree issued in 2013. “The fake one looks as real as the authentic one,” he told the court.
Justice Quin asked him if he was aware of court officials initiating this corrupt practice. “That is quite probable,” Mr. Brady replied.
“It’s such a shame,” the judge commented. ”Our links with Jamaica are very strong. Jamaica enjoys the highest reputation … It’s quite tragic to see how people can poison the administration of justice.”
Ms. James asked if Mr. Brady could say who would have initiated the production of the fake document. He said there was no way to know.
She asked if the corrupt practice was well known, so that people who wanted to take advantage of it could do so; he agreed.
Ms. James said the court could infer from the circumstances that the defendant was complicit in the making of the document. He wanted to marry and was in the process of being rolled over so he would have had to leave Cayman for at least a year. She said the logical inference was that the defendant had orchestrated matters that led to the false decree document.
Dennis Brady emphasized that the defendant genuinely believed in the authenticity of the document. “A deed does not make a man guilty unless his mind be guilty,” he quoted.
To say the defendant was complicit in the making of the false document was speculation, Mr. Brady argued. The couple had been dating for three years and wanted to be married. It was not a commercial venture just so he could stay on the island. He pointed out that Cayman’s Immigration Department had accepted the document in granting the defendant the right to reside and work on the basis that he was married to a Caymanian.
Justice Quin said the defendant and his wife had impressed him as witnesses of truth.
The judge found that the man did honestly believe he was divorced and the Crown had not discharged its burden of proof. His verdict was therefore not guilty.