Prosecutors discuss no theft charge ruling
It took two years from the time a former manager of The Pines retirement home left the Cayman Islands for Crown prosecutors to receive a “full ruling file” on a police investigation into her alleged theft of more than $300,000 from the charity.
The delay is one of the reasons cited by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for not bringing charges against Sue Nicholson.
“In general terms when considering whether to bring a criminal prosecution, the office is duty bound to examine all the circumstances,” the prosecutions office said in a statement released Wednesday. “Such factors may include evidential and public interest matters, for example: Any unexplainable delays between the making of the original complaint and the provision of material to support it.”
The criminal investigation into the case first came to light in 2013.
Toward the end of that year, The Pines Chairman Julian Reddyhough said that the charity’s board of directors had conducted its own forensic investigation and discovered “several hundred thousand dollars over an eight-year period” had been taken. That information was passed along to the police, Mr. Reddyhough said at the time.
The cash, including interest, was restored to the charity by Ms. Nicholson’s then-husband “without any admission of wrong-doing,” according to Mr. Reddyhough’s statement from December 2013.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service informed The Pines board members and the charity’s current manager, Linda Mitchell, in late August that charges would not be pursued against Ms. Nicholson. Mr. Reddyhough said in a letter to police on Sept. 8 that the organization was “dismayed” by that decision.
“The message this sends is that if your financial crime is discovered, then if you pay back what you have stolen and leave the jurisdiction, you will not be prosecuted,” Mr. Reddyhough’s letter to police said.
Ms. Nicholson’s departure from the Cayman Islands was also noted by prosecutors as being “generally” part of the decision-making process. The Crown said “the whereabouts of the accused and the potential cost at public expense of any extradition proceedings” must also be weighed.
Other factors related to the decision to charge an individual include: discrepancies in the evidence and sufficiency of evidence provided, the “conduct of the complainant” both prior to and after any criminal allegations are made, the potential outcome of any criminal prosecution and whether such a prosecution would be considered “proportionate.”
These facts were discussed only in general terms and not applied to the specific matter involving Ms. Nicholson, prosecutors noted.
The Crown also clarified that the ruling made related to the Nicholson/Pines investigation only applied to the evidence available at the time.
“Should any of the circumstances giving rise to a decision not to prosecute change, then the decision may be revisited,” the Director of Public Prosecutions’ statement read.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service declined to respond to the Crown’s statement. Officials at the The Pines were contacted about the statement, but did not respond by press time Wednesday.
Bush alleges ‘favoritism’
Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who was acquitted following a criminal trial last year on charges he corruptly used a government credit card to get cash to gamble at Florida and Bahamas casinos, said Wednesday that he was outraged by the outcome of The Pines investigation.
“I used my credit card, which everyone was allowed to do – and did,” Mr. Bush said. “I paid mine back, even left checks so that when the card bill came in government would not be out of pocket.
“This woman [is accused of stealing] $300,000 and the investigation, if there was one, takes over two years … and they decide not to prosecute? Is this the colonial favoritism that has been going on in this country?”
Compass journalist Alan Markoff contributed to this report.