Cayman’s newest attorney, a technology executive, chartered engineer and son of a seaman, was called to the Bar of the Cayman Islands last week.
When Kernilon Dwaine Owens was called to the Bar on Aug. 7 by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, the gallery was packed with relatives, work colleagues and well-wishers, including Premier Alden McLaughlin, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush and present and former MLAs.
In moving Mr. Owens’s application, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin detailed the new attorney’s accomplishments in electronics and communications engineering, his Master of Science degree, and his work with Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority, where he created and administered the first Department of Communications, Navigation and Surveillance.
Mr. Owens, in his first address to the court, focused on another aspect of his background – family members he thanked for the nurturing environment they had provided, their values, and the emphasis they placed on the pursuit of knowledge.
He made special mention of his father Crawford Owens, “who sacrificed family life to be away at sea to ensure that my siblings and I obtained a quality education. Although I only saw him for some 70 months of our lives, he was the first person to tell me that I wrote like a lawyer.
“This month and year will mark 20 years since his sudden death at sea – a traumatic, life-changing event that uprooted me from the foundations of my comfort zone at the time,” Mr. Owens said. “It was the defining moment in my life that placed me squarely into what I had to discover was the complex legal area of admiralty law, and thereafter with other experiences in my aviation career, became the signpost and primary catalyst for my later consideration towards the study of law.”
Noting that his father’s birthday anniversary was in three days, Mr. Owens said, “It is my wish, dad, as I make my maiden speech and voyage as an officer of the court, that through this ceremony, I am giving you your birthday present in fulfillment of your vision for me.”
He also paid tribute to other family members who had helped him reach this stage in his career: his great-grandmother – Ada Jackson-Hydes, a librarian at West Bay’s first public library, on Boggy Sand Road – who instilled in him a love of reading; his mother Darlene, for her example as a community volunteer, civil servant and justice of the peace; his wife Karen and their children, for unconditional support and understanding when studies detracted from family time.
He thanked the many teachers who had believed in him as a youth at Cayman Preparatory School and Cayman Islands High School.
It was Mr. Bulgin who detailed the new attorney’s academic background, from those early years when Mr. Owens’s interest in the applied physical sciences began and he took extra classes in electronics and amateur radio. He later studied electronics and communications engineering in Chelmsford, England, acquiring a Higher National Diploma with Distinction and then undertook by private study his Graduate Professional Examination in electrical engineering. He earned his master’s degree in engineering project management from Lancaster University.
Mr. Owens joined the civil service in 2000, moving from a commercial telecommunications career to his regulatory and policy career in the newly created post of head of telecommunications and engineering with the Civil Aviation Authority.
Appointed as the first aeronautical telecommunications regulator in Cayman, he created and developed the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Department. There he advised the Civil Aviation Authority on policies for air traffic services, competency, certification and safety management systems in accordance with international standards and recommended practices.
Mr. Owens remained at the aviation authority until 2005, and then became the head of the Department for the Office of Telecommunications, an agency under the Ministry of Communications Works and Infrastructure. He also served as government’s chief technical adviser for telecommunications. In 2013, he was appointed chief technology officer for the Ministry of Home Affairs and later that year was seconded to the Portfolio of Legal Affairs.
He began a correspondence course in legal studies in 2003, sitting in his first two examinations just days before Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. He switched to the University of Huddersfield in 2005 and began the Bachelor of Laws degree course by distance learning.
After graduating with honors in 2011, he pursued the professional practice course at the Cayman islands Law School, graduating in 2012. He did his articles with the chambers of the attorney general, the office of Solicitor General Jacqueline Wilson, and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards. While undertaking his articles, he acquired accreditation in International Arbitration.
Mr. Bulgin summarized: “Hence we have in Mr. Owens a rare combination of law, arbitration and professional engineering – a unique combination that nevertheless has synergies, and I am confident he will be an invaluable member of the legal profession.”
Chief Justice Smellie also commented on Mr. Owens’s unusual and impressive journey to the Bar. He said Mr. Owens already appreciated the hard and fast disciplines of science and would now be combining that with the nuances of law, which is as varied as human nature itself.