Immigration officer not guilty of pepper spray charge

Enforcement officer accused of aiding and abetting her husband

An immigration officer was found not guilty on Monday after a four-day trial on a charge of aiding and abetting the possession of a prohibited weapon.

The prohibited weapon was a canister of pepper spray.

The person Josefina McLean Shaqaqi was accused of aiding and abetting was her husband, Omar Shaqaqi, who earlier had pleaded guilty in Summary Court to possession of the prohibited weapon. He was ordered to pay costs of $250, but no conviction was recorded against him. He was discharged without any further conditions.

Justice Charles Quin told the jurors, “When an offense is committed, every person who aids or abets another person in committing an offense may be charged with the offense.”

The prosecution’s case, conducted by Crown Counsel Greg Walcolm, was that Ms. McLean Shaqaqi gave her husband the pepper spray. Mr. Shaqaqi had told the court that he is ex-military and felt that somebody might wish to fight him for that reason. He said his wife gave him the pepper spray and told him that if somebody gave him a problem, he could use it and then call her.

He said he never used it, but kept it in his bag. He said he did not know it was against the law in the Cayman Islands for a person to have pepper spray.

Defense attorney Michael Snape had suggested to him that he took the pepper spray out of his wife’s car without her permission, but Mr. Shaqaqi said that was a lie. He went on to say that Ms. McLean Shaqaqi also gave pepper spray to her son and to his son’s girlfriend.

Ms. McLean Shaqaqi testified that she had been an immigration officer since 1994, part of that time with border patrol.

She underwent training to become an authorized user of pepper spray. She said that people taking the course had to subject themselves to being pepper sprayed.

Justice Quin observed, “She described it as worse than childbirth. She said it’s the most painful thing. It can bring you to your knees. She said it effectively immobilizes, and you will end up streaming from your eyes, your nose, your mouth and even your skin.”

Ms. McLean Shaqaqi said she only ever had one can of pepper spray at a time, handing in an old one to receive a new one from a senior officer. She told the court she kept her pepper spray in a lidded compartment on her immigration officer utility belt along with a baton and handcuffs. When she was not working, she kept the belt with its attachments secure in her locked car.

She said the idea of her giving pepper spray to children was absurd and she denied giving it to her husband. She said there was never any discussion about him needing it for protection. She also pointed out that his possession would easily be traced back to her – and she would not put her 20 years service into jeopardy.

Justice Quin reminded jurors of what Ms. McLean Shaqaqi had told police when interviewed under caution on June 23, 2014, one day after the pepper spray was found in Mr. Shaqaqi’s bag.

When she had discovered the pepper spray missing from the compartment on her belt, Ms. McLean Shaqaqi said she “dug [her] car apart” looking for it. She basically “punished [her] children and grilled them and blamed them” because she couldn’t find it …”

The judge quoted her as telling police, “I was frantic because I was thinking maybe my children had it and didn’t know the dangers of it.”

Ms. McLean Shaqaqi told the court that she and her husband had had some serious arguments and she wanted a divorce. She said he had lied to police because he wanted to get her into trouble, adding that she had text messages from him stating that he was going to ruin her life and her job.

She told the court he had access to the car as she let him wash it and change the oil, but more often than not, she was there when he was doing it.

After the jurors delivered their not guilty verdict, Judge Quin told Ms. McLean Shaqaqi that her reputation remained completely untarnished. “I’m sorry you’ve been put through this,” he said. “My only surprise is that the Summary Court didn’t record the conviction after Mr. Shaqaqi pleaded guilty. I find it remarkable.”