The first civilian to be convicted of an offense under Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Law was sentenced on Wednesday to perform 100 hours of community service.
Paula Yates-Rivers, a Cuban national, was assisted by an interpreter of the Spanish language as she was for her trial. She was found guilty last September of fraud on the government by offering a bribe to a civil servant. She had tried, at least three times, to give $100 in an envelope to an administrative secretary whose job included receiving applications for naturalization.
After a judge-alone trial, Justice Charles Quin said the case was in many respects tragic, but he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Yates-Rivers was guilty. The matter was adjourned twice so that a social inquiry report could be obtained.
This week, the judge again commented that the case was exceptional and sad after he heard from Crown counsel Candia James and defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi on sentencing.
The defendant and her Caymanian husband had been in a traffic accident in 2010. Her husband was seriously injured and when he needed treatment in the U.S., she applied for naturalization so that she could go with him, as she could not travel to the U.S. on her Cuban passport.
Ms. James and Mr. Aiolfi agreed that what Yates-Rivers had done was not for personal gain, it had involved little planning and the defendant perhaps had a limited understanding of the seriousness of her act. They also agreed that there was no local case to compare it with – two people convicted previously under this law were public servants.
Both counsel noted that Cayman’s law is similar to the U.K. law – the maximum penalty for the offense of bribing another person is 10 years. Where the level of harm caused is low and the degree of culpability is also low, the U.K. sentencing guidelines suggest a starting point of a medium level of community service.
Mr. Aiolfi raised another consideration – how a conviction might potentially impact his client’s status with the Immigration Department. “As a result of the finding of the court, her condition is more precarious,” the attorney pointed out. “In other circumstances, I may have been able to persuade the court not to record a conviction.”
Ms. James replied that not only was the offense serious but the defendant had gone to trial. She therefore contended that the circumstances did not warrant no conviction being recorded.
In his sentencing remarks, Justice Quin noted that the defendant and her husband had been married for 20 years and she was a devoted wife.
The offense had occurred between June 18 and 20 in 2013 and her whole aim was to “fast track” her passport and get to the U.S. to attend her husband, the judge said. Now 54, Yates-Rivers had no previous convictions and wanted the court to know she respected authority. She accepted that she had acted inappropriately and the rule of law must be upheld, but she begged the court to be lenient.
The report indicated that her husband had been a bus driver but was now unable to work. The only income they have is her income, which is $1,000 to $1,100 per month. She was at a very low risk of reoffending.
Justice Quin emphasized that her offending was not a breach of trust.
He said he did not want to impose a fine because that would reduce her income while she and her husband obviously needed every dollar she earned. Exploring the option of community service, he asked how this would affect the defendant’s employment. The probation officer present said something could be arranged that would not interfere with her job.
Justice Quin strongly recommended that the defendant’s status in Cayman not be disturbed, noting that her husband relied on her heavily: “He needs her and as he gets older he will need her even more.”
In ordering her to perform 100 hours of community service within the next 12 months, he said he felt confident he would not see her in court again.
He also appreciated the strain she had been under. “Go home and tell your husband the news,” he told her.