Marine officer fined, disqualified from driving

Officer had no vehicle insurance

A sergeant with the Marine Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service was convicted and fined $1,215 on Monday for driving without insurance. 

Shawn Abshire Bodden’s fine was three times the insurance premium that should have been paid, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said. Costs of $300 were also ordered. Bodden, 41, was also disqualified from driving for 12 months, effective immediately. 

Bodden, who was found guilty in May, gave immediate notice of appeal. Magistrate Gunn had postponed sentencing after attorney Charles Clifford submitted that no conviction should be recorded or that special reasons existed for Bodden not to be disqualified from driving, owing to Bodden’s exemplary character, distinguished career and the fact that he used his vehicle to carry out maintenance of Marine Unit vessels. 

The magistrate pointed out that the law imposes a burden on each driver to make sure that the vehicle driven is insured. Bodden as a police officer had taken an oath to uphold the law and should have been aware of his obligation more than the average person. 

Mr. Clifford had submitted that it would not be in the interests of justice to convict Bodden and he should be discharged. An alternative argument was that special reasons existed not to impose disqualification from driving, which is otherwise mandatory. 

The magistrate said senior officers acknowledged that maintenance service provided by Bodden had assisted the unit, but there was no suggestion he had been instructed to do so. Further, when the insurance expired in March 2011, he did not advise them. 

The magistrate found that Bodden’s senior officers did not know about his insurance situation; if they knew, they would have instructed him to stop using his truck until the insurance was covered. It is the police service’s responsibility to service their vessels adequately, she pointed out. If Bodden had told them his situation, they would have had to make the necessary arrangements. 

She also noted that the truck was used for personal business as well as for purposes related to the Marine Unit. 

She concluded it would send the wrong message if a police officer were not convicted, “especially when he denied guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence.” 

Although Bodden’s insurance had lapsed for more than two years, he had chosen to drive on public roads “over and over again … . This is inexcusable, whoever the driver is,” the magistrate said. 

Use of the truck for employment purposes was not a special reason, she stated. The court has heard that reason given so often – it is not an unusual circumstance, she elaborated. 

Bodden had pleaded not guilty to driving without insurance on the basis that his wife had obtained an estimate for coverage the previous afternoon and the premium had been paid the day he was stopped. With no time stamp on the policy issued, Mr. Clifford had argued that the policy came into effect one minute after midnight on the date specified.